Judge dismisses neighbors complaint against Northeast waste facility

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January 9, 2012
By: Nick Halter
Nick Halter
Hennepin County Judge Bruce Peterson has dismissed a complaint filed by a group of residents fighting a proposed waste facility in their Holland neighborhood.

The group, who call themselves Don’t Dump on Northeast, were seeking a court ruling that would make it illegal for the city to operate a waste facility at 340 27th Ave. NE, city-owned property that is zoned for medium industrial.

Their attorney, Jim Peters, said the complaint, even though it was dismissed, has changed the city’s approach to the project.

“The neighbors feel like the city has moved its position, and if that’s the net result of this case, I think it’s positive for everybody, particularly the neighborhood,” Peters said.

The city and Hennepin County are trying to build a facility where residents can bring electronics and hazardous wastes, such as paints, oils, aerosol cans, pesticides and other flammable liquids.

The city says only 5 percent of Minneapolis residents are using existing facilities that the county operates in Brooklyn Park and Bloomington. By having a drop-off center in the city, officials hope to prevent hazardous materials from ending up in landfills.

Don’t Dump on Northeast (DDONE), however, says such a facility doesn’t belong on a medium industrial — or I-2 — property, rather in heavy industrial area, per city ordinance. Some live within a few hundred feet of the site.  

DDONE is fighting a decision last summer by the city’s zoning administrator, Steve Poor. Poor ruled that the facility was allowed on an I-2 parcel, and the Zoning Board of Appeals upheld his decision.

Nineteen neighbors of the proposed facility filed a complaint in a Hennepin County District Court in October against that decision.

Their complaint alleges that the city plans to use the site as a waste transfer facility, not a recycling facility, since the materials dropped off will be transferred to other sites for processing.

The complaint also alleges that the city has spent more than $2 million on acquiring the site and studying it.

The residents are asking that the city declare the project as an illegal use of the property.

The city argued to Peterson that the complaint was premature, saying it “attempts the impossible — to stop a development that does not currently exist.”

The city, in its motion, says the project has not applied for land use permits or building permits, and does not have any development entitlements.

In the motion, however, the city acknowledges that waste transfer or disposal facility is prohibited on an I-2 parcel.

Peters says the DDONE group will keep a close eye on the projects permitting process to make sure the city stands by its claim that I-2 property does not become a waste transfer facility.

“That’s why you may hear about this again,” Peters said. “Was the city conclusively taking that position, or were they just saying that to get around these court proceedings? Time will tell.”

A call to City Attorney Susan Segal’s office this morning has not been returned.