Landfill expansion approved, but not for increased trash

An Elkhart County landfill has grown over the past 39 years, and on Thursday morning, it got the green light to expand once again.

The Elkhart County Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) approved Earthmovers Landfill’s petition to add 5.369 acres to the east side of the property. The purpose of the expansion is to extract gravel, sand or other raw materials, as well as to stage dirt to cover the landfill.

The landfill lies between county roads 26, 17 and 9 in Concord Township, a largely agricultural area, but with a handful of residential properties scattered along the roads.

Several concerned homeowners attended the BZA’s public meeting to oppose Earthmovers’ petition.

“Who wants to live next to a landfill,” said Cathy Braddock. Braddock lives in an older home located on CR 9. She moved into the house in 1975, just a year before the landfill officially opened for use.

“Enough is enough,” Braddock told the BZA. The private companies that run the landfills have put up fences along the property line; however, Braddock says dust, dirt and odor still seep into her backyard.

Although the five acre addition won’t move the waste management closer to her property, Braddock said she wants the expansion to stop somewhere.

Also at the meeting was Braddock’s neighbor, Corrie Stahley.

Stahley’s home is over 100 years old, but her family has lived in it for 48 years.

“It’s an investment for us and, to have this landfill behind us just isn’t doing anything for the property value,” Stahley explained.

Stahley said she’s watched the landfill expand over the past four decades, despite promises that it would close “soon.”

On November 25, 1975 the BZA approved a Special Use Permit for a private landfill on a 115 acre parcel of land. Thirteen years later the board approved a 16 acre addition, which brought the landfill’s total size to 131 acres.

Again, in November of 1999 the BZA granted another 40 acres to the landfill for the purpose of extracting minerals on the landfill property.

Earthmovers specified in its petition that the working hours would remain between 7:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. However, homeowners said those are the same hours the landfill is supposed to run, but they’re woken up by trucks and lights much earlier, and much later than that time frame.

While the neighbors said this latest petition is the straw that broke the camel’s back they did say they’ve had relatively good relationships with some of the landfill’s former managers.

Going forward they’re worried that with the construction and staging jutting up against their immediate property lines, their already decreased property values will plummet as well.

BZA member Randy Hesser was one of three officials who voted in favor of the petition. He said that he felt the measure deserved approval because it didn’t pose a threat to the environment and was well within the rights of the property owners to expand there.

Hesser added that he did feel for the homeowners and their difficult situation.

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