Responded deLeon: “I approved that because it already was in the L-I zone and it allowed for landfills. That zoning district already was established.” She also stressed township and state Department of Environmental Protection officials worked hard to make sure the previous expansion was done properly.

Strings attached to recommendation

The planning commission’s recommendation for approval came with a few stipulations.

It is recommending to township council that 300-foot buffer zones be established along both property and zoning district boundary lines around the landfill, rather than the 100-foot buffers now designated in the proposed zoning amendments ordinance.

Another recommendation is that if the landfill “disturbs” land containing designated natural resource areas, and gives the township money rather than replacing that land acre for acre, the planners want that money earmarked only to purchase land for preservation of “quality” open space.

Planners also recommend reviewing a zoning district boundary so it does not put resident Richard Gardner’s 24-acre farm into two different zoning districts.

Financial support

No one took issue with one resident’s statement that 30 percent of Lower Saucon’s annual budget comes from IESI revenues. If the landfill closes, that revenue goes with it.

“We’re not going to discuss township budgets,” said Landis early in the meeting. “That’s not what we do. But it obviously is a consideration.

“Economic issues shouldn’t be the sole reason for making a decision, but it does have to be part of that decision,” said Kologie. “We have to plan for a sustainable community. Everybody lives here because of the quality of life.”

Landis said nothing else probably will generate as much revenue per acre as the landfill. When he was loudly applauded by landfill supporters, he added: “That doesn’t mean I’m in favor of it, but it’s probably reality.”

If the landfill must close because it can’t expand, one IESI employee warned residents: “Your taxes are going to go up.”

Environmental impacts

One of the biggest concerns of the night was that an expanded landfill will have more detrimental impacts on nearby residents.

Before anyone addressed the commission, Landis, its chairman, noted planners already heard many concerns about expansion of the landfill at previous meetings – including noise, odors, traffic, threats of groundwater contamination, water run-off, damage caused by blasting, disturbing natural resources, appearance and impact on property values.

Landis said he hoped to hear other concerns. Yet resident after resident stood to reiterate those same issues.

Residents argued that expanding the landfill will bring all those problems closer to their homes. Many of them live in the township’s Steel City neighborhood, which is separated from the landfill by a ridge.

Resident Russell Sutton came to the meeting with banner-sized photos of the landfill and a nearby forest, which he said will be changed by the expansion. He claimed the landfill now is 750 feet high, “the highest point in Lower Saucon.”

Sutton said 237 homes are in Steel City, “in the shadow of this landfill.”

Landfill manager Samuel Donato came with his own photos, including one he said showed the landfill “has no visual impact on the residents of Steel City.”

“Bull crap!” said one woman.

“Want to come to my backyard?” asked another.

Donato presented the planning commission with a petition he said contained 100 names of people who support the zoning change that will allow expansion of the landfill.

“This area is the industrial district in Lower Saucon Township,” said Donato.

Both Donato and Atty. Maryanne Garber, who represents the landfill, maintained “each and every” health and environmental concern raised by residents was addressed by expert consultants at a township meeting last October. Garber said those experts concluded there were no significant operational issues with the IESI landfill.