Saturday, August 14, 1999

Landfill foes aim to join BFI suit

Residents want role in negotiation with Warren Co.

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MORROW — An anti-landfill group and a resident living next to the Bigfoot Run waste site want to join in a lawsuit against Warren County commissioners.

        Morrow Environmental Preservation Association (MEPA) and MEPA member Bill Brausch, who built a $300,000 log home 230 yards from the Bigfoot Run landfill, have filed a motion in Warren County Common Pleas Court to be included in the lawsuit. They say they want to be sure residents' voices are heard and that they be involved in settlement talks.

        Browning-Ferris Industries of Ohio Inc. (BFI) is suing county commissioners, contending their decision in December 1998 to deny BFI rezoning to expand the Bigfoot waste site was unfair.

        The resolution of the lawsuit, in or out of court, could determine whether Warren County has one, two or no landfills. Residents of Union Township and nearby Morrow in adjacent Salem Township are concerned about lowered property values and environmental damage should the closed Bigfoot Run landfill be allowed to expand or a new one be built in Morrow.

        John Phillips, attorney for MEPA, said the anti-landfill group wants to join the lawsuit because, as residents, they have the most to lose from a waste site expansion. MEPA is fighting both the Bigfoot Run proposed expansion and the creation of a landfill in Morrow.

        Mr. Brausch, who recently moved into his two-story log home in the back of his Torvillo Road property, should be included because he, like other residents along the road that runs nearest to the landfill, has much to lose from an expanded waste site, Mr. Phillips said.

        If Warren County Common Pleas Court Judge P. Daniel Fedders does not include MEPA and Mr. Brausch in the litigation, Mr. Phillips said, that decision likely would be changed on appeal.

        The motion asking Judge Fedders to include two new parties delayed a pre-trial conference scheduled for Aug. 4. A new date for a pre-trial meeting has not been determined, court officials said Friday.

        Judge Fedders declined to comment, but Mr. Phillips said they expect a ruling on whether to include MEPA and Mr. Brausch in the lawsuit to take more than a month.

        Mr. Brausch decided to build his log home because BFI had earlier agreed to close the Bigfoot Run landfill in Union Township by May 1999, which the company did.

        What Mr. Brausch and other residents along Torvillo Road said they didn't anticipate was BFI's aggressive campaign since February 1988 of trying to expand Bigfoot and extend the site's use for 10 years.

        “We want a say in this thing,” Mr. Brausch said. “We want to show a strong, united front and we're determined to hang in there until the end.

        “I'm also afraid the county commissioners will settle this out of court. This would be a deterrent for that,” he said.

        Warren County Commissioner Michael Kilburn declined to comment on the proposed inclusion of MEPA and Mr. Brausch in the lawsuit.

        “That's an issue for the judge to determine,” he said.

        He added that negotiations be tween county commissioners and BFI are continuing, but declined to discuss details.

        Warren County Attorney John Chambers did not respond to a request to comment. The two other county commissioners were unavailable for comment.

        C. Francis Barrett, attorney for BFI, stated in a recent letter to Judge Fedders that the waste disposal company will “oppose any such motion” that would allow MEPA and Mr. Brausch to join the lawsuit.

        After BFI's rezoning application to expand Bigfoot Run was rejected in December by Warren County commissioners, the waste disposal company filed a lawsuit against the commissioners alleging their application was not treated fairly.

        BFI officials then turned their full attention to rezoning 222 acres the company is leasing in Morrow.

        In 1997, Morrow Village Council passed an emergency ordinance that negated a BFI landfill zoning application. That action was also unfair, said BFI officials. BFI then filed a lawsuit against Morrow officials.

        The village ordinance cited in that lawsuit was later rejected in a partial decision rendered in 1998 by Judge Fedders.

        Currently, the Morrow Zoning Commission is considering a new BFI rezoning application for the same site at the former Alpine ski resort. The next public meeting on the latest zoning application is Sept. 9.

        BFI operated the only landfill in Warren County at Bigfoot Run, but that site reached capacity, as determined by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, and closed in May.


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