Council denies landfill request for change to permitCloquet City Councilors denied a request from Shamrock Industrial landfill to extend hours of operation – currently 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays except during emergencies and landfill cell construction – to 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Neighbors were relieved.
By: Jana Peterson, Pine Journal
For residents of Cloquet’s Antus Addition south of Interstate 35, Tuesday night’s Cloquet City Council meeting felt pretty familiar.
Once again, the city’s merchant industrial landfill was on the agenda, its new owners requesting the agreed-upon hours of operation – 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays except during emergencies and landfill cell construction – be extended to 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The reason for the request, landfill owner Richard O’Gara said, was for one specific contract: New Page paper mill in Duluth, which requires night hauling of their byproduct SRFI paper waste. However, neighbors and city staff expressed concerns over nighttime noise disturbing the rural residential neighborhood.
“This is an industrial waste landfill; Cloquet is an industrial town, built by industry,” O’Gara said. “Industries run extended hours. They create waste 24 hours a day.”
After the Cloquet Planning Commission held a public hearing in June and voted to recommend the City Council deny the request for extended hours at the landfill, O’Gara hired independent contractor Wenck Associates to complete a noise study for Shamrock Landfill, Inc. The company placed two devices to measure noise in the area: one at the southeast corner of the Hilltop soccer complex; the other across the street from 1416 John Road. Both areas were selected because they would provide data for the areas potentially most affected by the landfill, the study stated.
“That study shows we’re not affecting the neighborhood,” O’Gara said. “We had ’dozers at full speed, back up alarms and we were at 40 to 50 decibels,” he said, noting that bedrooms and libraries have similar decibel levels.
Both sides acknowledged that part of the problem with noises or smells that come from the 260-acre pit is the fact that it’s difficult to know which business – the landfill, the gravel pits, the lumber yard or temporary asphalt plants – is responsible.
One neighbor talked about a “putrid stench” in the air that caused her to shut her windows at night, others claimed noise is a problem.
“I don’t know whose alarm woke me up at 5 a.m. the other night, but it was a back-up alarm,” said neighbor Frank McKean. “Now they’re proposing six trucks a night [for the New Page contract]. Before you know it there will be 50 trucks running in there at night, just like during the day. That will be a nuisance.”
O’Gara made a case for good business, noting his company has been running landfills since 1982 and has never had a violation and asking the city give them a chance to show they could operate longer hours without disturbing the neighborhood.
Neighbors asked councilors to vote against the hours change.
“We went through painful negotiations over the original conditional use permit [CUP],” said McKean, referring to the back and forth actions in 2010 and 2011 when the industrial landfill was originally proposed by Shamrock Environmental LLC. (The landfill was denied twice before finally being approved by the City Council in February 2011.) “We’re asking that the conditional use permit be upheld. It’s frustrating to have to come to these meetings to protect our homes.”
In the end, council members and Ahlgren voted unanimously to deny the request for a change in operating hours, their reasons ranging from reduction to neighborhood protections to unknown future implications as the landfill level climbs higher.
“I listened to the residents and I don’t take their concerns lightly,” said Councilor Kerry Kolodge. “It’s a quality of life issue. Also, staff said the current hours are not unreasonable.”
Ahlgren was the only person who appeared to be torn, as he expressed concerns about residents of Cloquet who work at New Page, which is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Councilor David Manderfeld was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.
Also Tuesday, the council approved beer and malt liquor/wine cooler sales at home games of the Minnesota Wilderness Junior Hockey League team – which is moving to Cloquet from Spooner, Wis. – in the Northwoods Hockey Arena, formerly known as CARC. Lumberjack Lounge would sell the alcoholic beverages.
Councilor Barb Wyman was the lone dissenting vote, so the agreement passed with the following conditions:
+ Sales of alcohol must be limited to beer, malt liquor and wine cooler products;
+ Sales must be limited to the specific dates and time associated with the team’s 2012-13 home schedule;
+ Sales must be restricted to the interior of the building with no consumption allowed outside the building or in the locker rooms;
+ The club or licensee must provide sufficient security personnel at all times when alcohol is sold.