Franklin Park commission rejects clean-fill site
By Tory N. Parrish
Published: Wednesday, May 22, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Some Franklin Park and McCandless residents opposed to a clean-fill site won a victory on Tuesday night, but it might be short-lived.
The Municipal Authority of the Borough of West View wants to use the site to hold excavated earth on 5 acres off West View Lane near the Franklin Park reservoir in Franklin Park. When the authority conducts water main repairs, it is prohibited by law from reusing excavated materials to fill holes.
The state Department of Environmental Protection defines clean fill as “uncontaminated, nonwater-soluble, nondecomposable inert solid material.” The term covers soil, rock, stone, dredged material, used asphalt, and brick, block or concrete from construction.
The Franklin Park Planning Commission has been considering the authority's land development and conditional use applications for several months, but on Tuesday the commission voted against recommending that the council approve the applications.
The plan, however, will still go before the council for a vote next month, when a public hearing will take place.
About 80 residents, many of whom oppose the project, attended Tuesday's meeting. About a dozen people voiced concerns about the potential noise from dump trucks, the disturbance of lights, contaminated materials affecting their well water and home values declining.
The municipal authority's solicitor, Fred Baxter, said the authority has taken all necessary precautions to protect public safety and welfare, and it would seek relief in the Court of Common Pleas if council denies approval.
“We're in the non-pollutant business. We're the water authority … so we follow all the regulations that there are. They're trying to make up new ones,” he said.
Planning Commissioner Robert Salvatora said the authority's plan met all the borough's criteria for stormwater management, but he questioned how residents would know that only clean fill is used.
Franklin Park resident Barbara Kohl, who lives on Ashbury Lane within view of the land, said her experience as chief operating officer of the West Penn Multi-List real estate listing service has shown her that clean-fill sites can affect homes' resale values.
“You buy in an area that was zoned R-2 (medium-density residential), and you expect it to stay R-2,” she said.
The DEP does not regulate clean fill sites, but it issues National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits. The system controls water pollution and provides rules for sediment control, especially when trees are being removed.
“The only way we would get involved is if there was a question about the quality of the fill of if the fill at the site turned out to contain contaminated, not clean materials. Then we would investigate, take samples and perhaps force the people who were putting the fill in to remove it,” said John Poister, spokesman for the DEP.
The authority has applied for its permit.
To qualify for a conditional use approval, the water authority's project would have to meet three criteria: safe and adequate traffic flow, prohibit glare due to site lighting and provide sufficient screening to protect the neighborhood from inappropriate noise and other disturbances.
The water authority applied for the conditional use permit by deeming that the clean-fill site would be an emergency service and municipal facility, but the attorney for the residents opposed to the project, Alan Shuckrow of Strassburger, McKenna, Gutnick and Gefsky, Downtown, said that the site would fall under the borough's more broad definition of a solid waste facility, which includes land used for organic refuse. Solid waste facilities are not permitted in Franklin's Park's R-2 zoning district.
Several commissioners also said that they believed the plan would be categorized as a solid waste facility.
Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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