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Dumping station right move

The Journal Editorial of Jan. 8 unfairly criticizes Mayor Tim Keller for reversing the Berry administration’s plan to put a waste transfer station and convenience center at Edith and Comanche.

The Edith site did not have the required SU-1 zoning. The Berry administration spent $4 million preparing detailed architectural plans even though they did not have SU-1 zoning. That was fiscally irresponsible and resulted in waste. The editorial wrongly blames Mayor Keller for costs incurred by the irresponsible actions of his predecessor.

The transfer station was twice appealed to the City Council. In both cases the City Council sided with the opponents. In the first appeal the City Council remanded the zone change back to the EPC in part because “staff and the EPC failed to conduct any meaningful analysis” against the requirement … that the transfer station would not be harmful to adjacent property or the neighborhood. Instead of proceeding to try to address the deficiencies, the city withdrew its application and attempted to sidestep the requirements for re-zoning by issuing a declaratory ruling that they did not need a rezoning to SU-1. The neighborhood appealed. The Council again sided with the neighborhood. Undeterred, the city reapplied for rezoning but did not offer proof that the rezoning would not harm adjacent or neighborhood properties as is required… The Council pointed this out in the first appeal.

The City Council then did what the Berry administration had failed to do. It commissioned an Economic Impact Analysis to determine whether the transfer station would be harmful to area businesses and residents. The council retained UNM’s Bureau of Business & Economic Research for the study. The analysis concluded that the transfer station would reduce adjacent property values by 18 percent. The impact decreased further from the Edith site and reached zero at one-half mile. Using assessed values, the negative impact on property would total at least $5 million. …

The analysis should have been the end of the rezoning project, but the Berry administration continued spending money. The City Council study had answered the critical issue: the project would harm area property owners and, consequently, the city did not meet requirements for a zone change. The Journal claims that zoning was “nearly in place.” Nothing is further from reality. The (analysis commissioned by the) City Council provided evidence of harm that precluded re-zoning even if a transfer station could save money. The Berry administration and the Journal seem to believe that harm to citizens should be ignored and that the potential savings to the city justify the re-zoning because any savings would inure to the public.

The city is subject to the same rules that apply to anyone seeking rezoning. …

Mayor Keller was right to recognize the impact on the neighborhood, that the project was not well planned and would never withstand challenge and correct to stop the waste of his predecessor. It was apparent to anyone who, as he did, took the time to actually talk to the adjacent businesses or read the record.

One or more transfer stations may be appropriate as a part of a sustainable solid waste system. Potential sites can and should be evaluated along with other systems to reduce cost and to extend the life of the landfill, such as composting. If this is done with input from the community and without presumptions, the city will reach the desired goal sooner.