The Waco City Council will vote Tuesday on a staff recommendation to place the new city landfill on a 292-acre site on Old Lorena Road next to the Waco Regional Landfill.
The proposed site, which the city already owns, faces fierce opposition from neighbors. But city staff said it scores the best among four potential sites studied in a rate analysis.
It would raise monthly residential rates by 30 cents, compared to others that would raise rates by up to $3.58. Those other sites haven’t been publicly announced.
“The other three final sites all present unknowns as well as significant operational challenges having to do with accessibility, travel time, land acquisition, new area neighborhood concerns, infrastructure (water, sewers and roadway) needs, and permitting,” City Manager Dale Fisseler wrote in an informal report to the council.
The council will discuss the rate analysis in a 3 p.m. work session at the Waco Convention Center’s Bosque Theater. It will vote at the 6 p.m. business session on the Old Lorena Road site and whether to authorize city staff to submit an application to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
Mayor Kyle Deaver declined to say how he intended to vote, but he said he is looking at more than just rate impact.
“I think that’s a significant factor,” Deaver said. “But we also have to look at operational issues involved at other sites, things like having to condemn property to get access. One of the sites has a railroad to cross, one is closer to a neighborhood than the Old Lorena Road site and one site would require us to drive through a neighboring city. Things like that you really can’t quantify.”
What appears to be the second most cost-effective site would cost $5.2 million to acquire but would raise residential rates by only $1.29 per month, the analysis by NewGen Strategies and Solutions shows. The other two would raise rates by $3.23 or $3.58. Those rates were calculated by looking at increased travel times, fuel costs, repair and maintenance and incremental capital costs.
The Old Lorena Road has met with fierce opposition, in the form of a lawsuit from immediate neighbors and a political campaign waged by a broader group calling itself Citizens Against the Highway 84 Landfill.
The lawsuit, led by neighbor Wanda Glaze, claims that the current effort would violate a 1992 agreement with neighbors not to expand the Waco Regional Landfill. City officials have countered that the Old Lorena Road landfill would be a separately permitted operation that would open upon the closure of the old landfill.
District Judge Vicki Menard of the 414th State District Court in June denied the city of Waco’s plea to dismiss Glaze’s suit based on governmental immunity, and the city is now appealing that decision to the 10th Court of Appeals.
The Citizens Against the Highway 84 Landfill group has raised more than $60,000 in its campaign against the Old Lorena Road site and recently filed a “friend of court” brief in support of Glaze’s lawsuit.
Opponents argue that a new landfill in that location would harm property values in the growing Highway 84 corridor, threaten Lake Waco’s water supply and bring vultures too close to the McGregor Executive Airport.
“I think it’s preposterous for them to choose a site that has an active lawsuit for which they’ve lost the first round,” said Brad Holland, spokesman for the anti-landfill group. “That shows poor foresight and procedural planning for the whole landfill escapade. … The city promised not to expand and gave Wanda Glaze their word that the current landfill would not get bigger. Now they’re going back on that through a minor technical issue.”
Holland said as soon as the city files for its TCEQ permit, his group will challenge the plans in court, based on everything from the 1992 agreement to the landfill’s effect on McGregor Executive Airport and Lake Waco.
If the Old Lorena Road site is chosen, the permitting process would start in late 2018, and the entire process of permitting and construction would take at least seven years. By then, the current landfill is expected to be nearly filled.
Deaver said if the Old Lorena Road site goes forward, the public will have ample time to raise issues with state and city officials during the permitting process.
“If we move forward with the site, we will want to talk with neighbors to see what can be done to mitigate their concerns,” he said. “Residents still need to know that they’ll have the ability to comment on the TCEQ application.”