CAMBRIDGE TOWNSHIP — There was standing room only in the tiny space inside Cambridge Township's meeting room regarding the addition of a waste transfer station at a well traveled intersection within the township.

Dozens of concerned citizens attended the township's zoning board hearing regarding a waste transfer site proposed by Raccoon Refuse, a residential and municipal waste collector. A waste transfer site is a place designated for waste removed from garbage trucks and awaiting pickup from tractor trailers to be moved to a landfill.

After a presentation from Ernest Sell, owner of Raccoon Refuse, and Steve Halmi, engineer from Deiss & Halmi Engineering in Edinboro, and much public comment, the zoning board voted a unanimous no to the proposed variance to the ordinance.

Sell and Halmi proposed a variance to an ordinance specifically designed for sanitary landfills to approve the use of agricultural district property at the intersection of routes 6 and 19 and Zilhaver Road and Kreitz Road. Transfer stations were not mentioned in the township's zoning ordinances.

Sell planned to erect a large building to house seven garbage trucks and garbage to be transferred. A conceptual picture submitted to the zoning board revealed the planned building would be completely open on one side. The garbage trucks would be out from 5:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., but Sell said they are "normally in by 2 p.m." He also planned to expand the site and grow activities on the property in the future.

Sell planned to put the building on a nearly five acre parcel with an eight foot fence. One aspect of the ordinance stated the lot was to be no less than 15 acres. Sell and Halmi also requested a variance be granted to have the facility closer than 250 feet from a public right of way. The ordinance also stated the facility had to be 450 feet from residential uses.

The zoning board asked several questions regarding monitoring of sanitation and environmental impact, much of which Sell and Halmi attributed to Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection permits and self-monitoring of water and soil quality. Sell also said he would use bleach to clean the floor of the facility.

During the public comment, Stephanie Duda, a resident whose house was near the proposed site and whose neighbor was within 450 feet, voiced concerns about many aspects of the proposed waste transfer station. She brought up property value decreases, which prompted local resident Robert Wnek, who planned to raise beef cattle near the proposed site, to bring forth two studies in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Carbondale, Colorado, where property values decreased between eight and 18 percent due to proximity to waste transfer stations.

Duda also brought up the possibility for well water contamination in the future as well as the garbage attracting unwanted and potentially unsafe animals to the area. Others brought up the safety of the intersection, which had several car crashes because of a blind dip in the road, due to garbage trucks and tractor trailers coming and going. Still more brought up the viability of raising and selling crops next to the proposed site.

The zoning board, comprised of Chairman John Anderson, Keith Snow and Victor Kwiatkowski, deliberated while the crowded room discussed the proposal. Upon return, they voted unanimously to deny the variance.

After the decision, Sell said he would "keep going" and try to find another site. Anderson said he "appreciated the decorum" of the group and thought that "the system worked" to get local residents involved in the process.

Tyler Dague can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at tdague@meadvilletribune.com.

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