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Community members packed the Hardwick Elementary School for an April 9 public hearing concerning the proposed reopening of a long-closed landfill in the town.
Reminder Publishing photo by Bill Zito

HARDWICK — Proposed zoning amendments sought by a Vermont company in their bid to reopen a Patrill Hollow Road landfill were met with strong community opposition at an April 9 public hearing presented by the Planning Board at Hardwick Elementary School.

Rutland, Vermont-based Casella Waste Systems Inc. is seeking to reopen and expand the solid waste landfill which closed its operations in the town in 2007. In 2013, the company had unsuccessfully sought a variance to allow the dumping of 500,000 tons of contaminated soil at the closed site.

Beginning the public hearing with a video presentation Casella Vice President Brian Oliver told the crowd of more than 300 residents and nearby community members that Casella had been approached in 2022 by Hardwick brothers Daniel and Daryl Roach with a proposal to reopen the landfill and combining it with an adjacent gravel pit.

Oliver said the company explored the feasibility of such a project and drafted a host agreement with the intention of only moving forward with support from the town.

“We will not move forward without interest from the town,” Oliver said.

The host agreement, which Oliver said would remain in effect as long as the landfill was open and the project was in effect offers $2.1 million per or $6 per ton tipped for the town. The presentation cited a 48-acre site but 146 acres, including 84 acres abutting the site, would require rezoning for industrial use.

An initial 20-year expectation by Casella as to the life of the landfill was adjusted to approximately 13 years, according to the presentation.

The proposed zoning amendments would include the industrial land rezoning, reducing landfill height restrictions, allowances for the reopening and expansion of solid waste landfilling as well as the discontinuance of a portion of Patrill Hollow Road at the northwest and southwest boundaries of the landfill site.

Planning Board member Harry Comerford asked questions to Casella representatives including Oliver and Compliance Officer Tracy Markham regarding the reported 50 trucks per day that would be traveling to and from the landfill on Hardwick, Ware and other neighboring roads.

“We recognize that there’s going to have to be infrastructure work done which is why we need to have the truck routes memorialized in the host community agreement so there isn’t any question from the towns or residents about where the trucks will or won’t be traveling,” Markham said.

Comerford also asked about concerns regarding diesel exhaust and emissions related to the increased truck traffic in the area, road damage and potential groundwater contamination involved in the transport and from the landfill itself.

Oliver, Markham and Engineer Steve Wright said many of the impact concerns would be included in the host community agreement as would policies concerning violations of the use of the dedicated truck routes.

Markham was also asked about the records concerning other Casella landfill properties including the Southbridge Processing Facility in Charlton.

Board Chair Jenna Garvey asked Markham about the company paying the salary for a landfill monitor to be employed by the town and the emergency contingency plans for the landfill itself.

Markham said that both issues would be the responsibility of the company and would be included in the host community agreement.

As part of the hearing, abutters to the landfill property were invited first to address the Casella representatives and the Planning Board.

Greenwich Road resident Chris Lantz said he has almost 900 yards of frontage that would be directly affected by the landfill.

“Right at the property line is an underwater stream, that source of water starts right there,” he said. “I can’t do anything with my back 20 acres, but you guys are going to be able to bring in a pile of trash?”

Lantz also expressed his concerns about a mounting trash pile and nuisance animals.

“Possums, raccoons, things like that, seagulls are going to be sh***ing all over everything we own,” he said. “I have well water, I moved back to Hardwick, I saved my entire life to get these 57 acres and you’re about to destroy it.”

After Lantz’s comments, a succession of abutters expressed their concerns about the landfill proposal and objections against passage of the bylaw amendments.

Charity Hill Road resident Dr. Richard Romano spoke in representation of the Physicians Advisory Panel, a group working with the Board of Health. Noting that the panel does not represent the BOH’s viewpoints, Romano said the panel’s members concluded that, “the proposed landfill represents a significant threat to the town of Hardwick’s public health and safety.” Romano urged the Planning Board and the voters in Hardwick to reject the rezoning and the landfill.

In response, Markham said based upon compiled data, there is no trend of contamination from the Hardwick site.

Two community members spoke in favor of the bylaw amendments citing personal encounters with emergency workers, including EMTs and police, whose efforts they believe would benefit from the increased revenue the landfill could potentially bring to the area.

Patrill Hollow Road resident Ryan McNutt told the panels and the audience that he moved to Hardwick two years ago.

“I had to work incredibly hard, I saved up to buy my house,” he said. “This was a dream of mine to buy this house, I grew up in the city, I grew up in the city of Fitchburg, I’ve lived in cities my entire life and it was my plan to buy this house in Hardwick, I specifically chose Hardwick to move here. I have not met practically any of you yet, but I chose to live in your town and now I’m very concerned about what’s going to happen to my road.”

Following similar comments by more than a dozen community members, the board discussed the virtues of reviewing the HCA before a vote on the bylaw amendments and agreed that a vote to conclude the public hearing would be in order.

Acknowledging that while a potential town vote may include those who may want to know what would be included in an HCA, the board determined that their role to address the bylaw amendment questions.

A vote to close the public hearing passed 3-1 with member Comerford voting to reject the motion. A subsequent vote passed unanimously, recommending to the Select Board and to residents that the bylaw amendment proposals be denied based upon the following.

“In that the opinion of this board the reopening and or the expansion of the Hardwick landfill would be decidedly contrary to the purposes of the Hardwick zoning bylaw which are to protect the health, safety and general welfare of Hardwick’s residents, present and future and affect neighboring tenants.”

The recommendation will be forwarded on to the Select Board for their consideration.

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