A group that formed 25 years ago to fight the location of the Waco Regional Landfill alleges the city of Waco is violating an agreement not to expand the site by buying adjacent property with plans to use it as a landfill.
While city leaders have said plans call for a new landfill, not an expansion of the existing one, a group called Citizens to Save Lake Waco has filed a breach of contract lawsuit against the city and hopes a judge will block the city from using the new site as a landfill.
The lawsuit, filed this week in Waco’s 414th State District Court, asks Judge Vicki Menard to grant a permanent injunction against the city.
Waco City Attorney Jennifer Richie said the city has not been served with the lawsuit and declined comment.
Waco attorney Billy Davis, who represents the citizens’ group, said the city is at risk of violating a 1992 settlement in the initial lawsuit the group filed over the landfill’s location and size.
“The petitioners are saying there is an agreement in place that prevents the city from expanding the landfill out there on Highway 84, and that is what they are trying to do,” Davis said. “There is a map that appeared in your newspaper that shows the existing landfill and the one they are proposing are side by side, and the city does not believe that is an expansion. We don’t want them to spend the money to proceed when there is an agreement in place.”
City officials hope to get a state permit for a landfill at the 270-acre tract in the next few years. They expect to open it in eight to 10 years, when the existing 238-acre landfill just south of U.S. Highway 84 is expected to be full.
In August, the Waco City Council awarded a contract for $891,000 to an engineering firm for design and permitting work on the proposed landfill project. The council also approved $150,000 for related legal services. The city bought parcels for the proposed landfill site near Old Lorena Road between 2003 and 2010.
“We’re doing all we can to extend the life of our landfill,” Deputy City Manager Wiley Stem said in August. “But it would be shortsighted if we didn’t have a plan to replace it.”
The lawsuit details the initial fight in the early 1990s that the Citizens to Save Lake Waco group waged with the city. The landfill is near the South Bosque River, which flows into Lake Waco.
After the city bought the land adjacent to the landfill, the city had a public meeting in June 2005 with area residents. A public notice of the meeting alerted residents that they could “Learn about plans to expand our landfill and create two new parks,” the lawsuit says.
“The brochure prominently explains that ‘our landfill on Old McGregor Road requires an expansion,’ ” the lawsuit alleges. “Throughout the brochure and the public meeting, defendant clearly states its need and intent to expand the 1992 landfill.”
Those at the meeting asked why the city wants to expand the landfill instead of finding another location, according to the suit.
“Sitting and permitting a new landfill is a challenging and expensive process, which has no guarantee of a success outcome,” the lawsuit quotes an unidentified city official as saying at the meeting. “The current location of the city’s landfill is ideal in many respects for the operation of a landfill. The geology of the site is very suitable for a landfill. Also, this landfill is located with excellent access to transportation routes and is in an area of compatible land use.”
A year later, in correspondence with Jean Thorn, a member of the opposition group, city officials said they decided “not to pursue an expansion at this time,” according to the suit.
“During the interim years, upon information and belief, defendant devised a scheme to disregard its prior agreement and commitment to plaintiff and pursue and expansion of the 1992 landfill, repackaged as a ‘new landfill’ under a new permit,” the lawsuit states.
City leaders met last summer with four Old Lorena Road residents to explain the project and seek their initial input.
Wanda Glaze, a leader of the citizens’ group who lives along Old Lorena Road, told the Tribune-Herald then that the city is planning to violate the 1992 agreement. That agreement, which also provided for additional buffering and reduction of the landfill’s height, allowed the city to get a state permit to expand the landfill from 40 acres to the 238 acres it covers now.
“They said they would not go any bigger, wider or deeper, that they would not expand it in our community,” Glaze said in August. “They’ve gone back on that promise. . . . We just don’t want it here. There are lots of other spots they could put it.”
Stem has said the 1992 agreement is not relevant to the new plan.
“It’s not an expansion,” he said. “It’s a brand-new landfill.”