Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Carrollton, Lewisville residents unanimously disapprove Farmers Branch landfill expansion plan
Residents and city officials expressed their feelings at a recent public meeting.
CARROLLTON Hundreds of Carrollton and Lewisville residents as well as several city officials gathered in the auditorium of Creekview High School to voice their opinion on the proposed expansion of the Camelot Landfill by the city of Farmers Branch.
According to Brent Ryan, legal counsel for the city of Farmers Branch, the city is proposing to add 100 acres to the 351-acre Camelot facility. In addition, the city is proposing to raise the authorized maximum fill height for the facility, which is currently 160 feet above the natural ground surface, an additional 202 feet.
The public meeting, held on Oct. 25, gave attendees the opportunity to question several members of the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and Ryan about the expansion permit. Attendees were given the opportunity to add their statements to the official record of comments the TCEQ will consider before making the final ruling on the permit.
Diane Goss, legal counsel for TCEQ, said in addition to the meeting, public comments may be submitted in writing, in person at the TCEQ main office in North Austin, or by e-comment at the TCEQ website.
During the public comments, Carrollton mayor Matthew Marchant said that the growth of the region itself is enough of a reason for this expansion to be denied.
"The conditions surrounding this site have materially changed since the TCEQ last issued a permit on this property, and there are now thousands of Carrollton and Lewisville residents and businesses that will be directly affected by the expansion permit," Marchant said. "These residents and businesses planted their lives in this area based on the existing regulatory structure that is in place, which provides for a maximum useful life of roughly 20 more years. If this expansion permit is granted, it will result in more than 100 years of additional landfill activity, and 202 more feet of visual blight in an extremely dense, urban area."
Carrollton resident Gary Wooley said that he cannot believe anyone would be in favor of a trash pile equivalent in height to a skyscraper.
"It is incomprehensible that the city of Farmers Branch and the TCEQ is considering expansion of this landfill," Wooley said. "Are you seriously considering making this mountain of trash a tower of trash 30 floors high?"
Carrollton resident Gerald Roehrig said more consideration is given to the aesthetics of a wireless communication tower than is being given to the expansion.
"I've done hundreds of environmental site assessments for cell phone towers, and before they can put up a cell phone tower, one of the considerations is the visual impact in the area," Roehrig said. "Well, a 260-foot mountain certainly has a bigger visual impact than a cell tower does."
Lewisville city council member T.J. Gilmore said it was premature to have this meeting while major questions about the permit have yet to be answered.
"Holding this meeting while there are still 126 deficiencies on this permit request is unfair," Gilmore said. "These deficiencies aren't simply failures to format a document correctly, they are large and distinct pieces of data needed to ensure quality of life, quality of municipal practices, and most importantly, the quality of the water in the Elm Fork, and by extension, the Trinity River Basin, arguably the most important fresh water source in Texas."
Carrollton mayor pro tem Jeff Andonian said his biggest issue with the expansion is its potential environmental impact now and into the future.
"My concern is the health, safety and welfare of our citizens, not only in Carrollton and Lewisville, but in the entire region of the Trinity Aquifer," Andonian said. "Farmers Branch needs to decide that the actions we take today will not only affect our citizens today, but our children and our grandchildren, well into the 22nd century. Farmers Branch should not behave as a pariah to the civilized folks along the Trinity Aquifer."
Ron Simmons, Carrollton resident and Republican candidate for Texas House District 65, said that Farmers Branch is concerned only with continuing to use the Camelot as a source of income.
"This is not about anything other than money," Simmons said. "As we know in my business - the finance business - if you follow the money, you will find the answer, and the answer to this question is that Camelot is a revenue stream for the city of Farmers Branch."
Simmons also said it is the duty of any city to serve its people, not its own financial interests.
"It's not about making revenue, it's about not only serving the people living in our city, but being good neighbors," Simmons said. "Being a good neighbor means not doing things that could potentially contaminate the soil and the water and the air of the people living beside you."
Calla Davis, Farmers Branch Chamber of Commerce member and former Farmers Branch city council member, said the city tried to work with other cities when Camelot was first built in 1980, but was rebuffed.
"We as a city council went to the city council of Carrollton, visited their study session when this property was being developed and asked them 'Please, don't put residential areas near a landfill,'" Davis said. "Even though it wasn't adjacent to Camelot, we just knew that being downwind was not appropriate. The city of Carrollton politely told the city of Farmers Branch to pound sand."
Carrollton deputy mayor pro tem Kevin Falconer said the events of the past do not change the fact that the current expansion plan is unacceptable.
"With all due respect to [Davis], this is not about 1980, this is about today," Falconer said. "I've heard hundreds if not thousands of land use cases, and I can honestly tell you that I've never seen one as black and white and as egregious as this one."
Gilmore also said other options need to be explored to address the waste disposal future of the region, because precious resources could be lost with this expansion.
"We can find other places and ways to dispose of trash," Gilmore said. "The same cannot be said for clean water. This isn't simply a neighborhood or a region saying 'not in my backyard.' This is a region saying clearly, 'Clean water trumps trash.'"
Lucas Ryan Lovett, a Lewisville resident and a member of Boy Scout Troop 9168 in Lewisville, said this situation has put him in a position he is not used to.
"I strongly urge you to reject this proposal and work for a smarter solution that will cause less harm to our environment," Lovett said. "As a teenager, I'm used to adults telling me that something is a bad idea. So thank you for this opportunity to tell adults that this is a bad idea."
Hal Lester, a Carrollton resident, said he thought this meeting was a waste of time, because the residents of Carrollton and Lewisville will not be able to impact the decision of the TCEQ.
"I hope you all feel better, because I think the purpose of this meeting obviously is to let us vent so we can just quietly go away," Lester said. "Because I think the decisions have already been made. The people behind me on this stage and the commission they serve are not elected officials. They make their own rules and their own laws."
Simmons disagreed, saying the fight over Camelot is far from finished.
"This is not over, so you do not give up," Simmons said. "We are not going to give up, the cities are not going to give up, so you stay together, stay with us and we're going to get this thing done."
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