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Landfill case no longer piling up

High Acres withdraws DEC request to raise height of Perinton side of landfill

Justice John Ark stands in front of the 18 boxes containing all documents related to the High Acres Landfill case. (VASILIY BAZIUK)

There is a little more room in the chambers of Monroe County Supreme Court Justice John J. Ark who recently filed a final order in a case brought by a Perinton neighborhood group against the owners of the nearby High Acres Landfill.

Now that the case is over, the 18 boxes containing 33,000 documents related to the matter have been moved to the county clerk’s office. Justice Ark dismissed the petition of Preserve Scenic Perinton Alliance Inc. which succeeded — for now — in stopping Waste Management of New York LLC from expanding the height of the landfill it operates on the eastern border of Monroe County.

He had ruled in November that Waste Management must get re-approved by the state to increase the height of the landfill on the Perinton side. The landfill extends into the town of Macedon in Wayne County which had approved a 100-foot height expansion. When the DEC issued the operating permit renewal in 2008, it approved the height expansion for the entire landfill which concerned the alliance, prompting the suit.

Waste Management, since Justice Ark’s Nov. 17 decision, has withdrawn its application for the Perinton portion of the height expansion, making the issue moot. Based on that and the DEC’s determination that any future application for the vertical expansion in Perinton will be required to comply with the requirements of the State Environmental Quality Review Act, Justice Ark dismissed the alliance’s petition in his May 19 order.

Attorney Alan J. Knauf of Knauf & Shaw LLP of Rochester, who supported the petition on behalf of the alliance, said there will be no appeal.

“For our group, we achieved their main objective which was to stop the vertical expansion in Perinton,” Knauf said. “We were pleased that Judge Ark stuck to his well-reasoned decision with regard to Perinton that before DEC would look at expansion, they would have to look at state law and common sense.”

His group suggested Waste Management explore waste-to-energy alternatives to minimize the environmental impacts.

Waste Management was represented by Richard T. Sullivan of the Buffalo office of Harris Beach PLLC who declined to comment.

Also named in the suit were the DEC and the town of Perinton and its various boards that reviewed the Waste Management application.

The DEC, according to spokesperson Lori Severino, has issued a modified permit to Waste Management within the last week, reflecting the change that it does not have permission to raise the height of High Acres on the Perinton side.

“The town was satisfied with the end result,” said Robert M. Place of Place & Arnold who represents the town and its boards. “That’s what we expected.”

Place said the town never approved the height expansion for the portion of the landfill within its borders. He said there was some confusion when the application originally came in.

“To me, it was kind a red herring that was used by the petitioners here, but really all that Waste Management ended up with approval in Perinton was this little wedge,” Place said, referring to a 5.8-acre section of landfill on the Monroe County’s eastern border. Waste Management was granted permission by all parties to fill in the wedge which will make the height of the landfill even on both sides of the counties’ borders.

“It just seems to make sense,” Place said. “If you’ve got a landfill in Macedon, why leave the gap in Perinton? It might as well come across.”

He said he believes Preserve Scenic Perinton Alliance used the DEC’s approval of the entire landfill height expansion and applied it to the Perinton side when nothing could have been done in Perinton without the town’s permission.

“From the town’s perspective, the order does what it should do which is dismiss the lawsuit against the town of Perinton,” Place said. “Frankly, if I was a concerned neighbor, I would have sued Macedon. That’s where the bulk of this is going to go. What they were fighting over was really this little piece in the town of Perinton which, in my opinion, no one’s going to notice.”

He said even filling that in is at least five years down the road. Place said the town spent countless hours reviewing the materials which, in his opinion, should be kind of model for how something should be reviewed.

Besides the Town Board, the application went before the town’s zoning board of appeals, planning board and conservation board.

“Our conservation board did a separate analysis,” Place said. “They, by themselves, had I think 22 meetings. The town certainly tried to address any concerns. It’s kind of hard to argue you’re arbitrary and capricious when the town did everything that it did. The town didn’t rush to a decision on this.”

The town’s efforts were recognized by Justice Ark in his Nov. 17 decision which also allowed for filling in the wedge piece. He noted he had “read, reread and read again hundreds of pages of submissions by the parties,” reviewed oral arguments, accessed 33,000 pages of documents returned to the court and reviewed written answers to questions he gave the parties.

So what becomes of the files now? No, they will not end up in the landfill. Kirk A. Morris, Monroe County deputy clerk, said they will be retained by the county according to law.

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