MRF Puts City Council In Awkward Position
Angry residents may be asking for more than the City can give.As Tuesday night’s Santa Clarita City Council meeting was called to order, a formerly proposed Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) that was looking into being built off of Sierra Highway by Burrtec Waste Industries was again brought to the forefront.
At the last City Council meeting, a massive group of residents spoke out in opposition of the plan, which was conducting an Environmental Impact Report to detail the impacts of building on the property, which sits very close to residential neighborhoods.
The MRF, if built in Santa Clarita, would sort through all of the locally collected garbage to separate landfill-bound trash from recyclable material.
The residents who oppose the location detail potentially unpleasant smells, vermin, and increased garbage truck traffic in the area near Golden Valley Road and Sierra Highway.
After a long public comment period two weeks ago, the City Council illustrated that while they could eventually strike down the project when it comes before them, there was little they could do to stop the Environmental Impact Report from being conducted, because they are legally required to give Burrtec its due process. They could also technically not act on the issue since it wasn’t even on the evening’s agenda, and therefore not properly noticed.
In the days after the meeting, Burrtec Waste decided to suspend the project while they looked into alternatives.
That, however, did not stop the same residents from showing up in force again Tuesday night to plead for the council to kill the project for good. They vowed to come back every meeting and each speak in their allotted three minute increments for as long as it takes to get the project rejected.
And, again, the City Council stressed that they could not take an action on something that was not on the meeting’s agenda.
So the room was left at somewhat of an impasse. The Council’s only official actions would be to order some sort of moratorium on building such a facility in land zoned in the same way the Newhall location is. That option, warned City Attorney Carl Newton, could leave the City susceptible to litigation.
But having large groups of angry residents taking up an hour and a half or more of every City Council meeting isn’t a very attractive option either.
The whole scenario proves that public participation can prompt a reaction from the City, however in this case it may eventually force the Council to act prematurely, which Council member Laurene Weste says could cause future problems, including litigation. Council members like Mayor Bob Kellar and Mayor Pro Tem Frank Ferry have questioned the location publicly, so it’s not inconceivable that the plan would be rejected by the council in its regular processes, but the outspoken residents don’t even want it to get that far into the system.
Some of the residents who speak in opposition have even become pointed in their remarks, with some indirectly threatening Mayor Kellar by reminding the Council that elections are in two weeks. Kellar is the only sitting member of the City Council that is up for re-election.
As of now, the City Council has not even been given the opportunity to take an official action on the plan, since its impacts have not yet been weighed. Aside from the resident’s proclamations, the official Environmental Impact Report was in its infancy when it was suspended.
It seems that the only feasible option may be the one Bob Kellar brought up. Our Mayor asked City Manager Ken Pulskamp to set up a meeting with Burrtec, and specifically ask them to abandon the proposed Newhall location officially, in writing. Pulskamp said that he would set up that meeting.
Until that meeting takes place, the Council is left with few, if any realistic options.
In other Council news, the City and local skateboarders have found a solution to the temporary closing of the skate park. Click here to find out how that happened.