A Lexington planning body rejected a bid by Republic Services to put a garbage transfer station on an 8-acre site on Lisle Industrial Avenue after a more than three-hour hearing.
The Board of Adjustment voted unanimously Friday after hearing testimony from Republic Services of Kentucky officials and a dozen neighbors who opposed the transfer station. Republic Services requested a conditional use permit to put the transfer station at 203 and 205 Lisle Industrial Avenue, which is zoned heavy industrial. The site was previously used by Wise Recycling.
Bill Lear, a lawyer for Republic Services, said after the seven-member board’s decision that Republic has not yet decided if it will appeal the decision to Fayette Circuit Court.
In addition to the approximately 100 people who attended Friday’s hearing, the staff received about 200 emails and letters in opposition, said Jimmy Emmons, who staffs the Board of Adjustment.
Republic said it will spend $7 million on the site and wants to use an existing 80,000 square-foot building and add a 12,000 square-foot addition. The site will only be used to transfer trash and will not be a garbage dump, Republic Services lawyers said. Trucks will dump trash and that trash will then be transferred via semi-truck to Republic-owned landfills.
Lear said Republic has almost 60,000 customers in Lexington — including 5,700 commercial and 1,800 industrial customers.
Republic managed the city’s transfer station from 1996 until 2015 when it lost the contract to a competitor. Republic officials said it is taking its trash to its landfills in Frankfort and other locations.
“There is a legitimate capacity issue with the existing transfer station,” Lear said. “That station has significant repair needs.”
Lear said Lisle Industrial is one of the few sites appropriately zoned for a garbage transfer station in Fayette County, and it is needed.
‘We are going to have to have one somewhere,” Lear said of a second transfer station. “We will need the additional capacity.”
Jacob Walbourn, a lawyer who represents opponents of the transfer station, said Republic only wanted a transfer station after it lost its contract with the city.
“I am not aware of them seeking a second facility during that contract,” said Walbourn.
Bruce Simpson, a lawyer for Republic, said Republic spent more than $1.6 million on maintenance fixes to the city-owned transfer station during the time it managed that facility.
“We are nowhere near needing an additional facility,” Walbourn said. “They said that they spent $1.6 million over 20 years. That’s only about $80,000 a year.”
Walbourn said a Republic-owned landfill in Frankfort has had five odor complaints since October. That says something about Republic’s ability to manage odors, he said.
“They have not been able to control odors at their current location,” Walbourn said.
Walbourn said his clients have concerns that originally Republic said there would be 157 trips a day, 30 of them tractor trailers. Then later, Republic changed that to 127 trips a day with 20 trips by semi-tractor trailers.
“It’s possible that even Republic doesn’t even understand its own traffic patterns,” Walbourn said. “The total traffic will be difficult to understand until the facility will be operating, which will be too late for the neighbors who want to use Lisle Industrial Avenue.”
Moreover, Lisle Industrial Avenue is not wide enough for semi-tractor trailers to make a left turn onto, Walbourn said.
But Simpson said the traffic will be less than what it was when the property was Wise Recycling.
“Traffic is really a non-issue in this case,” Simpson said.
But Walbourn countered the only group that would benefit from the transfer station is Republic.
“I can’t conceive of a single benefit to the existing neighbors,” Walbourn said. Walbourn said Republic Services only wants the transfer station because it does not want to pay to use the Lexington transfer station now managed by a competitor.
“I think trying to make a profit while significantly impacting the neighbors is inconceivable,” Walbourn said.
Several area neighborhood presidents also spoke against the transfer station as well as students at Providence Montessori.
Joe Smith, president of Townley Park homeowners association, said he thinks the transfer station would impede future development.
“It has the potential to affect property values,” Smith said. “It has the potential to affect new businesses.”
At-Large Councilman Richard Moloney said the city had to take over the current transfer station from a private company in the 1990s because of odor and other complaints. Moloney said he has concerns about private businesses managing transfer stations again.
“We the city have to control it so if there are problems, we can address it,” Moloney said.
But not everyone spoke against the transfer station.
Steve Coleman, who co-owns more than 15 acres to the north of the site, said he did not have a problem with the garbage transfer station.
“Everything that I have reviewed that they have proposed … there could be a whole lot worse neighbors out there,” Coleman said.