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Edith trash station ‘not going to happen’

Mayor Tim Keller drew applause on Thursday when he announced the city would not move forward on the proposed Edith Transfer Station. With him is Sarita Nair, the city’s chief administrative officer. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)

Copyright © 2017 Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller has put an end to the prior administration’s controversial plans to build a garbage transfer station at Edith and Comanche in the North Valley.

The proposed Edith Transfer Station would have served as a drop-off point for garbage trucks making their daily rounds. Trucks would have dumped their trash at the station, where it would have been collected and loaded onto larger vehicles headed for the West Side landfill.

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“I’m standing here today to say that that is not going to happen anymore.” Keller told a news conference Thursday.

Members of the crowd, many of them nearby residents or owners of nearby businesses, cheered the announcement. Neighborhood groups had been fighting the city over the project for years, pointing to an economic impact assessment that concluded that the area would suffer economic harm from the project.

Larry Stepp, left, owner of American Marine, thanks Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller with a handshake after Keller announced that the city was pulling the plug on its proposed solid waste transfer station in the North Valley. Stepp said the transfer station would have destroyed his business and property values. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

“You have given us an early Christmas present, and you have fulfilled a campaign promise all at the same time,” David Wood, president of the Greater Gardner Neighborhood Association told Keller. “Our four-year struggle is over.”

Larry Stepp, who operates a business neighboring the facility, shook Keller’s hand.

“If (the transfer station) would have happened, it would have destroyed the value of my property,” he told the Journal.

Former Mayor Richard Berry’s administration had been pushing for the project, saying that the city could cut down on its carbon footprint and save $2.5 million to $4.5 million a year in fuel costs by building the transfer station.

But the project suffered a major setback in October 2016 when the City Council determined that the Berry administration would have to seek a zoning change to move forward with its plans. Just last month, the city’s Environmental Planning Commission voted to recommend approval of the zoning change, but that action came too late for the project.

Keller said the city has spent about $4 million on planning and other costs related to the proposed Edith Transfer Station, but he added that he thinks the city can still use some of the plans that were developed along with information that was collected.

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“We think that was an investment that’s going to continue to provide a return,” he said.

Keller said he is committed to finding a solution to the traffic, pollution and fuel cost problems the project had been trying to address. But he said the proposed Edith Transfer Station was a harbinger of a top-down approach to governance.

“I want to make sure that we listen to communities on the front end of projects,” he said. “I think that’s one important lesson to learn from this.”

Among the options he said the city would explore are finding another location for a waste transfer station or using a decentralized model that results in less impact to an area.

“There is no perfect site,” Keller acknowledged. “It’s not like there’s a magical place where everyone wants any kind of solid waste activity. This a notoriously difficult issue for cities to deal with.”

The site the city had planned to use for the transfer station currently houses the solid waste department’s administrative services functions, and it serves as the refuse truck terminal for solid waste and recycling vehicles, as a vehicle maintenance facility and as a neighborhood recycling drop-off location.

Keller said that although plans to use the site as a transfer station have been scrapped, he’d still like to move forward with some of the plans that were developed, such as redoing the building, which he called “terribly antiquated,” adding a green fueling station, and updating the fencing and landscaping.

Among those praising Keller’s decision at the news conference were Councilor Isaac Benton and Bernalillo County Commission Chairwoman Debbie O’Malley.

“I’m strongly in favor of making our solid waste, the entire system, much more clean and also responsible fiscally to the city,” Benton said. “But in this case, an independent study clearly demonstrated economic harm to private, commercial and residential interests in the immediate area of the facility.”

“This is for the good of the community,” O’Malley said. “From the very beginning, it was really about fairness. This was an ill-conceived project that was very unfair to this area. I’m glad it’s over.”

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