A plan has been dumped that would have closed Butternut Ridge Road at the request of Republic Services.
The company, which runs the Lorain County Landfill in New Russia Township, withdrew its call to vacate a section of the road following vociferous resident opposition.
“Although the Landfill believes a road vacation is the safest option for the identified section of Butternut Ridge Road and it is an option that may be pursued in the future, we are also committed to being a good neighbor and community partner,” David Vossmer, landfill general manager, wrote in a April 21 letter to the Lorain County board of commissioners. “The Landfill will work with the Lorain County commissioners and other officials to determine what safe and suitable crossing options are available to meet the needs of the county, the Landfill, and our neighbors.”
Republic officials on Feb. 5 requested closing 0.85 miles of the road east of Oberlin-Elyria Road and west of West Ridge Road, adjacent to the dump.
The proposed closing was to dig a hole designed to prolong the life of the dump. It would’ve accommodated trucks driving across the road carrying dirt to cover trash and for permitted landfill cell construction, which is ongoing.
A Republic traffic analysis said construction vehicles are expected to cross the road 160 times during the excavation. That’s 80 vehicles making round trips during the dump’s normal eight-hour day, nearly 20 crossings per hour.
“These crossings will be made by slow-moving vehicles traveling at 15 mph,” it stated. After construction is completed, workers expect to make 80 trips per day across the road.
Republic is also seeking permission from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to increase the dump’s height to 90 feet on about 166 acres of the dump’s 279 permitted acres. The heightening would allow for an additional 9.62 million cubic yards of capacity.
The 1,400-acre dump, which opened in 1984 and accepts 4,000 tons of waste per day, is expected to reach capacity by 2028 with its current intake.
Heightening would allow the dump to operate until 2035. The EPA hasn’t decided whether to approve the heightening.
While Republic officials said closure would’ve made construction easier, it would’ve meant rerouting non-construction traffic causing delays, including emergency vehicles.
Oberlin fire chief Robert Hanmer said it would’ve increased his department’s response time to mutual aid calls to Carlisle and Russia townships.
Hanmer, who said the department’s average response time is about six minutes, said the closing would’ve endangered residents. He said, on average, fires double in size for every minute they burn.
“I’m really happy they decided not to close the road,” Hanmer said. “I’m sure there are many options they can go for and closing the road isn’t the best solution.”
Also happy about the change was Butternut Ridge resident Ed Miller. He formed the Save Butternut Ridge Road group in response to the proposal and organized opposition.
Miller, a resident since 2014, said he believes Republic is a good company that has a thankless job in running the landfill. However, he said the closure would’ve led to Republic expanding the dump up to four miles to the Lorain County Regional Airport on Russia Road.”We have a huge landfill there now and I wanted to put brakes on the continuing size of the landfill,” he said.
Miller praised New Russia Township officials and the commissioners for being supportive of residents despite the county and township receiving revenue from the landfill.
Republic is the 48th biggest taxpayer in the county, according to Paul Nishanian, assistant chief deputy auditor for the county. It owes nearly $199,000 in taxes on 39 parcels this year.
“Money talks quite often,” Miller said. “In this case, politicians did what’s right instead of what’s convenient for their pocketbooks.”
Commissioners would’ve voted on the proposal if it hadn’t been rescinded. Commissioner Lori Kokoski said Republic is a good corporate citizen and she hadn’t made up her mind about the proposal. However, Kokoski said she was leaning against voting for it based on public safety and residents’ concerns.
She said some 500 residents signed a petition opposing the closure. “There was an outpouring of support against closing the road,” Kokoski said.
Evan Goodenow can be reached at 440-775-1611 or GoodenowNews on Twitter