Possible waste dump stirs debate

Residents of NE Minneapolis have appealed the facility proposal.

by Sarah Nienaber

A waste war is raging in Northeast Minneapolis over the proposal to bring a hazardous household dump to the neighborhood.
Opponents worry of increased traffic and environmental harm, while others argue the facility will benefit the community.
DonâÄôt Dump on Northeast, a group comprised of  residents, business owners and neighborhood organizations, is fighting against the household hazardous waste facility. At the end of January, the group filed an appeal with the Zoning Board of Adjustment to contest the approval of a University Avenue and 27th Street Northeast site for the facility. ItâÄôs still waiting to see when it will be granted a public hearing.
Marie Zellar  of DDONE is prepared to go all the way to the State Court of Appeals should the  board deny the appeal.
She believes a dump facility would be too close to homes and would âÄútaint the neighborhood.âÄù
First Ward City Council member Kevin Reich  said the project has morphed from a site for general trash to the hazardous waste disposal and recycling center being proposed now.
The hazardous waste facility would be managed by Hennepin County, Reich said, while the city would manage a portion of the building dedicated to recycling excess products from home improvement projects.
âÄúThe impact itâÄôs going to have on University [Avenue] is going to affect my family,âÄù landscape and architecture design graduate student Jessica Paine  said. Traffic from residents bringing their waste to the facility would also distress businesses like the bar where PaineâÄôs husband works, she said.
âÄúIt would be the last thing this area would need,âÄù said James Haracz, who has worked at JimmyâÄôs Bar and Lounge in Northeast for 28 years.
Paine is also concerned about the environmental effects the facility will have on the area, where she said the soil is already low quality.
Another group, Rethink Recycling Northeast, supports the facility. Because the project would be developed by the city rather than by a private contractor, it would bring a bike path and a four-way stoplight to the neighborhood, said Aaron Neumann, founder of the group.
Neumann says he developed his group to ensure the public is informed about both sides of the project.
He acknowledged the concerns of DDONE but said traffic wonâÄôt be as big an issue as opponents are making it seem.
âÄúThis is something our community needs, and itâÄôs something that the city needs, and itâÄôs important that these materials get properly sorted and then shipped out,âÄù Neumann said. âÄúThat definitely protects the environment.âÄù
Brian Brown, a member of the Environmental Alliance student group, said the impact on the environment varies depending on the levels of containment in the facility.
Residents also feel the proposal process has been unfair.
Zellar said residents learned of the proposal only when they were contacted by the Star Tribune for comments after the projectâÄôs approval in May 2010.
âÄúFrom the very beginning we have felt really excluded from the process and the decision making around this,âÄù she said. âÄúAnd so itâÄôs been kind of contentious.âÄù
DDONE formed last summer to urge the city to find another spot for the facility.
The group filed an appeal of the zoning committeeâÄôs approval, alleging the zoning administrator did not sufficiently review the area and wrongly approved it for development of the facility.
Reich said the project is at a standstill due to the appeal.
Depending on the stage of planning a project is in, Brown said a group like DDONE can have a large impact on the decisions of policymakers.