With several suggestions, the Marana Planning Commission has returned a development agreement between the Town of Marana and Marana Regional Landfill developer DKL Holdings to the town council.
A unanimous commission sent its recommendations ahead Wednesday, after lengthy conversation and some public comments. It is likely to go to the council Nov. 3, along with the zoning change that would allow DKL to pursue permits for a 430-acre commercial landfill.
Within the development agreement, the commission wants addition of:
* a definition of the term 'commercially reasonable efforts;'
* delineation of hours of operation, with no trucking nor landfill operations before 7 a.m.;
* expansion of the areas where DKL Holdings would remove litter, to include the Silverbell West neighborhood northwest of and closest to the site;
* monitoring of five down-gradient wells, all within two miles of the property, for contaminants at the company's expense for a period of five years after water from all monitoring wells on the property is clear of any contaminants identified from the landfill.
DKL Holdings wants to build a municipal and residential waste landfill within a 590-acre piece of ground one mile north of Avra Valley Road, one mile east of Trico Road and a half-mile south of Silverbell Road on newly annexed land owned by Vice Mayor Herb Kai. It has generated criticism from residents of the Silverbell West development, people living in Picture Rocks and elsewhere. There is expressed support as well. The town council must approve a zoning change on the parcel before the proposal enters regulatory permit application.
At the start of Wednesday's public hearing, planning commission chairman Norman Fogel made clear the evening's topic.
"The issue of zoning has been already determined by the planning commission" last winter, Fogel told the crowd. "We're not here to discuss the pros and cons of having a landfill, or not having a landfill. Limit your questions and comments to the development agreement."
That requirement forced landfill opponents to amend their latest in a series of complaints about the proposal. When Terri Faust, the evening's first speaker, began talking about absentee landowner Pak Chan and the effects of the landfill on his property, Fogel stopped her.
"What does this have to do with the development agreement?" Fogel asked.
"The development agreement is not the land use proposal," DKL representative Michael Racy agreed. "The development agreement is not a technical document, is not an engineering document, is not a compliance document." It's not required by state or federal regulatory agencies.
"All the protections, all the main benefits to the community, all the developer promises are laid out in agreement form," Town Attorney Frank Cassidy said. Because the planning commission has already recommended adoption of the zoning change to the council, "to recommend not entering in the development agreement, frankly, we believe, does not make a lot of sense," Cassidy said.
Among many provisions within the development agreement, DKL Holdings and the Town of Marana agree to designate a hauling route along Avra Valley Road from I-10 to the site in west Marana; that the landfill would not build a rail spur to or on the property, and would not accept waste that has been "transported by rail;" that the landfill would not exceed 165 feet in height; and that it would not accept hazardous materials. DKL would be responsible for litter pick-up along the length of Avra Valley Road, would pay $1.20 per ton of deposited waste to the town as its host fee, and would make improvements to Avra Valley Road and a bridge over the Brawley Wash.
Racy said "the amount of the host fee has been increased substantially" since the negotiating process began. "It's now equal to or greater than other facilities."
Provisions within the landfill agreement regarding off-site trash removal are "strikingly different" from those associated with Pima County's Tangerine Landfill, Racy continued. When trash blows off Tangerine, "you are welcome to call Pima County, and see how you do" with its removal, Racy said. "I wish you the best of luck." With regard to offsite litter, the development agreement "goes way beyond what we would be required to do."
Planning Commission Vice Chairman Gary Pound asked how the town could be guaranteed that no hazardous waste would enter the landfill.
While "there is a great deal of detail in the permit," Racy said, it's true that small amounts of hazardous materials, such as household chemicals, could enter the landfill.
"The waste stream today is cleaner than it's ever been since the Industrial Revolution," Racy said. Still, "minute amounts can slip through."
"I've seen an incredible amount of the potential eliminated," said DKL principal Larry Henk. "America got smart. We stopped making" potentially toxic paints, cleaners and other products.
The development agreement is only effective if the zoning change is adopted by the council in November, Cassidy said. If it's not adopted, the agreement "never becomes effective."
DKL reluctant to acceptban on out-of-state trash
Marana Regional Landfill developer DKL Holdings has agreed not to accept hazardous materials at its proposed commercial facility, and would not accept trash hauled in rail cars.
But DKL principal Larry Henk is unwilling to accept a provision banning trash that originates outside Arizona.
Henk told the Marana Planning Commission his experiences in the industry over 25 years keep him from agreeing to an out-of-state waste ban.
"The problem I have is, I'm a little guy, business-wise," he said. "There are giants out there with the wherewithal to run me out of business.
"I don't have one ton of out-of-state waste targeted" for the Marana landfill, Henk said. But if big players like Waste Management and Republic "know I'm in a box" by not taking out-of-state trash, "they go low in rates. I could get myself into an anti-competitive position. It's a small market. Everyone's fighting for the tonnage. That's my dilemma."
Given the economics of hauling trash, "there's going to be a natural commercial catchment area, we think," Town Attorney Frank Cassidy said. To haul trash "too far a distance, it's not going to make a lot of sense."
"The only way you can take waste hundreds of miles is by rail," DKL consultant Michael Racy said. "You can't do it by truck. … Are you really going to load a tractor-trailer in Los Angeles and drive by a half dozen other landfills to get to Marana?"
'No secret' Henk's firm hauls trash from Nogales
Marana Regional Landfill developer Larry Henk has a four-year agreement with the town of Nogales to haul its residential trash from a transfer station to a landfill.
His company Tucson Recycling and Waste Services hauls three truckloads of trash from Nogales each day. The firm is "currently hauling the waste to Phoenix, and it's very expensive," Henk told the Marana Planning Commission last week.
If the Marana landfill opens, and Henk diverts Nogales waste to Marana, Nogales wants a $5 per ton price break, he said.
Henk is "not hiding" the Nogales agreement. "It's a fact. It is 100 percent waste collected by the Town of Nogales."