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Let the new administration decide on waste transfer station

The city of Albuquerque votes on a new mayor on Oct. 3. A runoff election will take place on Nov. 7 if no candidate receives a majority of votes in the general election. Our newly elected mayor will have to make important decisions to address issues that remain unresolved from the outgoing Berry administration. One is the proposed Edith Waste Transfer Station proposed in the North Valley.

Since 2015, the Berry administration has attempted to secure the right zoning to locate a combination waste transfer station, public convenience center, and household hazardous waste and recycle drop off in the North Valley of Albuquerque.

The project has been opposed by local businesses, neighborhood associations and individuals because of the harmful effects that the project would have on their neighborhood and community. Sadly, for our community, the city has insisted that the project must proceed at this location and only at this location, and that all alternatives are off the table. Alternatives that should be considered are: 1) other locations, 2) not combining the convenience center and household hazardous waste functions with a transfer station and 3) multiple smaller transfer stations.

The city failed in its first zone change request application in 2015. The city then gave itself a declaratory ruling that would have allowed the transfer station to be built under the existing M-1 zoning. Neighbors and businesses appealed and the ruling was rejected by City Council on a 9-0 vote in 2016. Now, the city has again requested a zone change.

An economic impact assessment that City Council ordered concluded there would be harm to adjacent businesses and property owners in the area. This finding alone should result in the zone change being denied, since applicable law prohibits any zone change that would be harmful to adjacent property or the community.

In most cases, the receipt of this analysis would result in withdrawal of the application. Yet, with less than 30 days to the election, the administration will on Sept. 14 again request the Environmental Planning Commission (EPC) to recommend a zone change, even though there is little realistic hope of attaining the required zoning and/or of resolving any appeal during this administration. The city also cannot obtain approval from the N.M. Environmental Department (NMED) before the next administration takes office. NMED has not even set a hearing on the city’s application for a waste transfer station operating permit.

It is clear that whatever recommendation the EPC makes, nothing will be final when this administration ends. The next mayor may decide to explore other alternatives, and to work with neighbors and local businesses. Current mayoral candidates all say this project is “DOA” when they are elected mayor.

It does not make sense for the city and taxpayers to continue to spend money on outside consultants to push for a zone change when, regardless of any EPC recommendation, the final decisions will be made by a new administration.

On the eve of a new Albuquerque mayor and administration, we call on Mayor Richard Berry to withdraw the zone map amendment application for the Edith Waste Transfer Station, and allow the new mayor and administration and new Solid Waste Director to address the many issues that should be resolved before proceeding. This process has already cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars, and cost business and neighborhood associations tens of thousands in legal fees.

A waste transfer station could possibly be helpful in reducing city refuse costs. But let’s step way back and let the new mayor consider alternative sites, and whether more transfer stations or an alternative site(s) could result in additional savings, and avoid harming the neighborhood and local businesses.