Trash site zoning change recommended

Opponents of the city’s plan to build a garbage transfer station at Edith and Comanche NE have won a round in their fight against the project.

A land-use hearing officer at City Hall is recommending that city councilors require a zoning change – a process that requires a public hearing – before the project can be built.

His recommendation, if adopted, would reverse a ruling from the city code compliance manager, Andrew Garcia, who decided in June that the transfer station is a “permissive activity” in light manufacturing zones like the Edith and Comanche property.

Steven M. Chavez, a hearing officer who considers zoning disputes for the City Council, ruled on Friday that Garcia’s decision was “arbitrary and capricious.” Two similar transfer stations – at Eagle Rock and Montessa Park – went through zoning changes, Chavez said.

His recommendation now goes to the City Council.

To secure a zoning change, an applicant must show the change won’t harm adjacent property owners or nearby residents.

The dispute centers on a plan by Mayor Richard Berry’s administration to build a solid-waste transfer station to serve as a drop-off point for garbage trucks making their daily rounds.

The trucks would take their trash to the transfer station, where it would be collected and loaded onto larger trucks that would take it to the West Side landfill.

It’s intended to save on fuel and other costs because there will be fewer trips to the landfill.

City officials say the proposal would save $2.5 million to $4.5 million a year in fuel costs.

But there’s been intense opposition from North Valley residents. They have raised questions about the smell, traffic and other environmental concerns.

Michael Riordan, Albuquerque’s chief operations officer, said he believes the mayoral administration can make a good case to city councilors that they should overturn the hearing officer’s recommendation.

Repackaging trash for transport to the landfill is similar to the uses allowed in a light manufacturing zone, he said.

Neighborhood opponents, meanwhile, say it’s clear a zoning change is required – a decision upheld by the hearing officer. They note that the city administration actually applied for a zoning change at one point before withdrawing the request.

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