HOWELL – The Township Council accepted a settlement agreement ending litigation involving a fully enclosed transfer station that is proposed to be built.
Mayor Theresa Berger stood as the sole dissenting vote against the resolution that reached a settlement with Resource Engineering, Inc. The settlement agreement, set to be integrated into a court order, was not accessible to the press during the time of reporting. However, key details from the agreement were presented and discussed during the meeting.
Authorities said that Howell was not originally a party to the litigation involving Resource Engineering. Officials decided to intervene to safeguard interests of the town and its people and to ensure the township would benefit from the proposed location of the transfer station.
Prior to the decisive vote, Attorney Jerry Dasti, acting as special counsel for the municipality, explained the settlement. Several members of the public seeking information attended the meeting in person, while others watched online.
Dasti traced the origins of the proposed transfer station to 2017 or 2018 when the proposed transfer station was initially brought forward by the developer. The site in question at 34 Randolph Road is currently a wood recycling facility. The new proposed use resulted in a series of public hearings, negotiations, and eventually led to litigation. The developer initiated legal action against the County Commissioners and the Monmouth County SWAC (Solid Waste Advisory Commission).
Highlighting the typical process for such facilities, Dasti explained the role of Advisory Commissions in making recommendations to the commissioners, the five elected officials who run the county. He also stressed the importance of passing a resolution to cement the terms of the settlement.
“If we don’t resolve this to our satisfaction, that doesn’t mean it goes away,” said Dasti. “The developer still makes application to the county and thereafter the DEP to get a transfer station.”
“And if they’re successful, if they can show that there’s a need for it in this part of the county and they’re approved,” Dasti continued. “That approval might be without all of what we believe to be the positive benefits for the township.”
Dasti said that an important point about the transfer station is that it is not what most people would consider a dump. It would not handle household garbage, so neighbors wouldn’t worry about the smell of rotting food, for example. Instead, it would handle Type 13 Waste. This category includes materials such as concrete and building materials, all of which would be housed within a fully enclosed building.
He said that trucks transporting this waste would enter the building, unload their cargo, and then exit. All activities related to the transfer station are conducted indoors, minimizing potential external impacts.
“Smaller trucks will bring waste from a point source and will tip it on the floor of the building,” said Frank J. Vitolo, the attorney representing Resource. “It will be sorted by equipment into areas within the building…It then gets loaded into a larger truck from when it arrived that goes to the ultimate end location.”
There would also be an office onsite. However, this office would exclusively serve the needs of the transfer station itself and would not be leased to any third party.
The construction of the building would adhere to stormwater regulations mandated by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). This aims to mitigate any potential impact on stormwater runoff. Additionally, the landscaping surrounding the facility would be in accordance with the township code, to create a buffer with neighbors and to partially hide it from sight.
During the second phase of the presentation, Township Manager Joe Clark compared the 2018 proposal put forth by the developer and the terms outlined in the recently approved settlement agreement.
“In 2018, we had less control over the project,” said Clark. “The initial representation suggested approximately 150 trucks per day in addition to trucks from other proposed development in the surrounding area, which would have been substantial.”
The projected on-site processing of approximately 1,500 tons of type 13 and 13 C material daily was a significant concern. Moreover, there were indications that material from adjoining municipalities outside of Monmouth might contribute to this load. This is no longer the case as all materials must originate from within the county.
Resource Engineering has committed to putting a traffic light at the intersection of Route 547 and Randoph at their own expense. Access to and from the project will primarily utilize Routes 9, 547, and 195. Trucks leaving the project will be directed left, ensuring a swift exit to Route 547.
Under the 2018 proposal, Resource suggested compensating Howell at a rate of 50 cents per ton for type 13 and 13 C waste – a host community benefit amounting to around $215,000 annually.
The new agreement increases this amount from 50 cents to $5 per ton. This fee will rise by 2% each year, resulting in an anticipated benefit of about $950,000 annually to the Township.
The project’s daily truck trips are expected to increase to an average of 80, up from the current average of 50. All trucks will load and unload inside the building, where waste will be sorted for transfer outside Howell.
The developer is expected to contribute $50,000 to the township’s open space fund, paid after the certificate of occupancy is issued for the station. There is also the opportunity for the company to consider procurement of a parcel of land adjacent to the facility that is currently owned by the township.
“Resource has also agreed to accept 1,000 tons of our Type 13 and 13C Waste that we may get at our bulk pickup and drop-off,” said Clark. “In addition to 5,000 tons of brush each year from the township free of charge as a benefit to Howell. This is anticipated to save us approximately $80,000 to $100,000 a year at current prices.”
In the public comment segment of the meeting, numerous attendees urged the council to postpone their vote until the next council meeting. They expressed concern that the information had just been presented for the first time and accused the governing body of a lack of transparency. Furthermore, objections were raised regarding the meeting format, with attendees noting that it did not facilitate open dialogue and imposed time constraints on the questioning process.
“The 12 or 13 page agreement should be given to the community to review so that we can ask what questions we do have,” said resident Sheri Reavis. “I wasn’t able to process the information on a couple points on a slideshow (presented during the meeting).”
Steve Morlino, another Howell resident, echoed Reavis’ points, expressing his worry about potential traffic issues, despite conflicting opinions from experts.
Larry Zwickel, residing on Randolph Road, said he already has problems getting out of his driveway and voiced concerns about the additional traffic impact.
“My quality of life is affected by everyday traffic on Randolph Road,” stated Zwickel. “Everyone talks about traffic, but Randolph Road doesn’t produce traffic. It’s all the cut-through traffic.”
Additional residents joined in expressing their worries about traffic, including Mayor Berger. She emphasized that the facility’s early Saturday morning hours could disrupt the peace for local residents during their usual downtime.
Morlino said he reached out to Lakewood Mayor Raymond G. Coles, who informed him of Lakewood’s plans for a temporary waste transfer station.
“He reminded me that Lakewood is looking to put in a temporary waste transfer station that would only house stuff overnight and then it would be taken offsite,” Morlino explained. “He said that by DEP regulation, he can’t (transport) stuff here (from Ocean to Monmouth). They make it sound like we’re not going to allow it. The DEP won’t allow it.”
Howell resident Marc Parisi said it seemed the project was tied to Lakewood’s building boom. He asked why it was being built in the southern end of Monmouth County if it would not accept waste from Ocean County.
“Could the professionals talk about open DEP violations?” Parisi requested. “I had the opportunity to go on the state website and saw there were a number of open violations on this particular property, and that’s not to suggest that they’re not going to come into compliance at some point in the future. But it does concern me that people that are going to be coming to our town to operate a facility, and currently there are pending open violations with the DEP.”
Concerns were also raised about the developer’s tax delinquencies, with reassurance provided to the public that they are currently up to date. Town officials, unaware of the DEP issues, pledged to investigate them.
Dasti emphasized that Howell holds no legal standing in determining whether the transfer station can be built. The decision lies with the Solid Waste Advisory Committee, the County Commissioners, and the DEP. Dasti clarified that the vote that night was not to approve the transfer station.