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Publish Date: 5/25/2005

After a public hearing at Erie Town Hall on Tuesday regarding the expansion of the Front Range Landfill, Steve Hizel, general manager of Front Range Landfill, center, and Tom Miller, regional vice president for Republic Services, left, show concerned Vista Ridge resident Kevin Johns the expanded view of the landfill, which is just a few hundred yards away from his home. “I knew there was a dump there when I moved in, but I didn’t know it was going to double in size,’ Johns said to Hizel.Times-Call/Hunter McRae

Erie landfill talks on hold
Town must give residents at least 30 days’ notice before hearing can be held

ERIE — Discussions of a proposed expansion at an Erie landfill have been halted indefinitely following officials’ discovery that the town had not properly notified the public about a hearing.

The town should have given residents 30 days’ notice before a public hearing Tuesday night on whether Front Range Landfill can expand by 122 acres, rather than the town’s required 15-day notice.

That’s because the town attorney recently found that the expansion application is subject to state law.

Since April 2002, the town has been operating under the assumption that state statutes did not apply to the landfill’s proposal. But town attorney Mark Shapiro told leaders Tuesday he now believes state law applies because the landfill does not hold a certificate of designation for a 92-acre expansion area northeast of its current footprint. The landfill, however, does have that paperwork for the rest of the proposed expansion area — 30 acres to the west.

The lack of paperwork means the town must treat the expansion application as if the landfill were a new facility and not an existing facility looking to grow.

“We are protecting ourselves against a technicality,” Mayor Andrew Moore said after the meeting. He said he wasn’t told about the problem until about an hour before the meeting.

Shapiro said the entire process and any decision trustees would ultimately make could be at risk if they didn’t stop the hearings and make sure every rule was followed exactly.

“This can’t be put on hold. We have to get through this,” Moore said. “But the reality is that (putting the issue on hold) is the right thing.”

Will Flower, vice president of Republic Services of Colorado, the company that owns the landfill, said Tuesday that his company maintains its desire to expand despite the delay.

“We’d much rather do it the right way,” he said.

Flower said he was frustrated by the delay, but more frustrated by officials’ vacillation over whether state law applied to his company’s application. The question was bandied about during several planning commission hearings and during a board of trustees meeting two weeks ago.

“We now know, for the first time ever, what criteria apply to this project,” he said.

Flower said landfill officials knew they did not hold the required certificate of designation for the northeast area of the expansion. He said his company assumed the town would simply amend the landfill’s existing certificate to include that portion during the application process.

But town administrator Mike Acimovic said it is unclear what steps need to be followed for the landfill to collect the certificate.

“We are not prepared to conclude that tonight,” he said after the meeting. He said town staff will continue to pore over laws and other similar annexation agreements to determine how to proceed.

Front Range Landfill officials said if they are allowed to expand the landfill northeast and west of the it current footprint, it could stay open an additional six years, stretching its expected closing date to 2034.

In February, the Erie planning and zoning commission approved a measure that would allow the landfill to expand, but recommended more than 20 conditions, including one that would decrease the proposed expansion size by not allowing it to expand northeast.

That decision came after almost 30 hours of public testimony.

Town staff had also recommended approval of the expansion proposal.

About 20 residents came to the meeting Tuesday to offer their opinions on the expansion proposal. Some said they were disappointed about not being allowed to speak, but said they want the town to follow every rule closely.

Amanda Arthur can be reached at 303-684-5215, or by e-mail at aarthur@times-call.com.

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