County Potentially Will Allow Landfill to Shut Down

By John Holler, Correspondent. For the better part of three decades, Wright County has had differences with a landfill located in Monticello Township. Twenty years ago, Wright County got mired in a lawsuit over landfilling as part of its ill-fated compost facility and was ordered to pay $2 million in a settlement agreement. Since then, it has been a point of contention despite the landfill changing ownership in the intervening years. However, a recent denial for a rezoning request from Rolling Hills Landfill to expand its current facility may finally be the last straw for the landfill that has operated in Wright County for almost 50 years.

The matter was scheduled to be brought before the Wright County Board of Commissioners after a lengthy process through the planning commission. The planning commission deadlocked 3-3 on final vote and didn’t provide the county board with a recommendation. But, the board met as a committee of the whole and instructed staff to create documents consistent with an official denial of the request, which prompted Rolling Hills to withdraw its request for the second time in three years. The land on which the landfill operates is currently zoned agricultural, but the landfill is operating as a “legal non-conforming use” – the result of being grandfathered in following litigation with the county in 2002.

Commissioner Charlie Borrell, who sits on the planning commission and favored approval, said that when any large group of residents show significant opposition to almost any proposed zoning change, getting approval is virtually impossible. “It has always been the rule of the mob at planning commission or board of adjustment meetings,” Borrell said. “If a mob of people shows up, nobody gets anything. There was no reason for this denial. Five years ago, I would have been leaning against any landfill. I’ve done a lot of research over the last few years and they’ve never had a landfill with the lining that they use now to contain the debris that has leaked. They’ve been using this lining technique for 20 years and it keeps getting better and more advanced as time goes on. It’s already there and I think it’s an asset to the community because we don’t have to spend thousands of dollars to ship debris to South Dakota or southern Minnesota. It just didn’t make sense to me.” Mike Niewind, general manager of the Rolling Hills facility, said that the decision to request a withdrawal prior to board action was to reassess the process, because time is running out on the current capacity of the facility, which Niewind said likely has just a little more than a year remaining at its current level before it reaches capacity.

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