100% of landowners oppose landfill plan

John Schlegel and his staff can't remember another time a rezoning request was met with 100 percent opposition.

But that's the case for a controversial construction and demolition landfill proposed at 55th Street South and Ridge Road.

Head of the city and county planning department, Schlegel said every landowner within 1,000 feet of the property notified about Resource Recovery Management's request for a conditional use permit and zoning change signed a protest petition.

"It's never happened to anybody's recollection on staff," Schlegel said Friday. "Folks that own property around this are not happy."

Some of those landowners have formed a group — Citizens Against Proposed Dump — and plan to voice their disdain for the plan at the Sedgwick County Commission meeting Wednesday.

Schlegel expects a big crowd. Landowners are concerned about possible groundwater contamination, pollution, drainage and reduced property values, among other things.

"People from miles away filed protest petitions," he said.

Because of the opposition, four out of five commissioners must vote in support of the landfill for it to be approved.

The Wichita Area Metropolitan Planning Commission recently approved the plan, and planning staff has recommended approval.

"It was a tough call," Schlegel said of the staff's recommendation. "On the one hand, and many of the protesters will argue this, a C&D landfill in that particular area will seem out of place. The property itself and most of the surrounding property is still farmland. But just off to the east of this property are a lot of industrial type uses" including a power plant, a chemical company and grain elevators.

"In weighing all that ... we didn't feel a C&D landfill would be out of place. Now the neighbors disagree with that assessment."

Gary Thome, a Clearwater resident, said in a letter to commissioners that nearby landowners "are vehemently opposed to this proposal because of environmental dangers from air pollution spread by Kansas winds and the likely groundwater risk due to the mixing of runoff from this facility with existing surface water. The combination of poor drainage in the area with limited clearance between the dump and the water table could spell disaster."

Conditions for the plan include a height restriction of 80 feet and construction of an 8-foot fence around the landfill. The landfill could operate only during day hours, and someone would have to be present during all hours of operation, Schlegel said. Trucks delivering materials to the landfill would have to take paved roads to get there.

A detailed grading and drainage plan would be required as well as all pertinent licenses from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

This is the second time a landfill has been proposed for the area. A similar application in 2008 was withdrawn. There are two construction and demolition landfills in the area, one at Brooks Landfill and one owned by Cornejo & Sons on the south side of K-96 and just west of West Street, Schlegel said.

Thome said a landfill doesn't belong in his area.

"It's a very low-lying area. It doesn't drain very well," he said.

Thome grew up on a farm nearby and said the area long has been called Mosquito Bay.

The Eagle couldn't reach Resource Recovery Management's lawyer in Wichita for comment.

Board members of the Greenwood Cemetery District have opposed the zoning and conditional use request, noting in a letter to commissioners the "potential for decreased business from the fact we are located so close to a dump."

Putting a landfill near a cemetery, their letter said, also could result in a loss "of tranquillity for those saying goodbye to loved ones. This will be difficult for people to deal with when laying their mothers, fathers, grandparents and children to eternal rest."