Herald and Journal, Aug. 16, 1999

FCR Landfill says it is target of recent zoning revisions

By John Holler

Over the past couple of years, the Wright County Board has learned the hard way that protecting its own zoning interests has become a Catch-22 of expensive proportions.

Every time the county has made changes in its zoning ordinance to restrict or define the parameters of waste handling zones, it has resulted in expensive litigation from Superior Services, Inc., the company that runs the Superior FCR Landfill in Monticello Township.

At the Aug. 10 meeting of the county board, the commissioners again passed more restrictive amendments to its zoning ordinance, in response to a court ruling against the county in district court.

The judge in the case ruled that the county inadequately defined what the property line of the waste handling district of the FCR Landfill was, because Superior owns land adjacent to the property line - thus being able to extend a 200-foot setback up to the property line itself.

Commissioner Jack Russek, who sits on the planning commission that heard the proposed amendment changes and approved them, said that the changes are meant to clarify the original intent of the ordinance.

"It's an attempt simply to clean the language up," Russek said. "We believed when we passed the original ordinance that the property line was the property line, regardless of who owns land next to it. These amendments clarify exactly what we intended all along."

On the other side of the issue, Superior FCR officials say the county is again trying to attempt to ban landfilling in Wright County, interfering with private business that is legal by putting up obstructions like the original zoning amendments and the revisions passed Aug. 10.

"We've always contended that the ordinance and its subsequent changes have been designed simply to put us out of business," said Rod McGillivray, superintendent of the FCR facility. "The language of the ordinance says it applies to all landfills in the county, but we have the only operating landfill here and the county has gone to great lengths to say that no new landfills will be allowed. It's clearly a case of the county trying to end landfilling in this county and putting us out of business as a result."

McGillivray said he could not comment on any potential litigation that may rise from these changes, since the county and Superior are currently in federal court fighting issues connected to the county's zoning ordinance. However, he did say it is time for both sides to discuss the matter and try to reach a compromise, since both are paying thousands of dollars to attorneys to fight the case.

"What I see eventually happening is a judge is going to tell both sides to sit down with each other and get and agreement done," McGillivray said. "I'd like to see us do that now. It's costing everyone a lot of money and eventually we'll likely find a compromise position. Why not just do it now and save both sides a lot of expense and time?"

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