Protection site

Neighbors continue to seek compensation and protection under landfill agreement

Feb. 27—EAU CLAIRE — Residents remain committed to seeking better compensation and protection as part of negotiations over local control of the Seven Mile Creek landfill.

An attorney representing the Seven Mile Creek Neighborhood Association sent a letter to the Seven Mile Creek Landfill Siting Committee on December 16, 2021, asking for annual social payments and a simpler, more resident-friendly land value protection plan.

“Overall, the plan is very beneficial to GFL,” attorney Christa Westerberg wrote. “Since the main beneficiaries of the land value protection plan are the owners, the committee should ensure that the owners support it.”

The neighborhood association is a group of around 100 residents who live near the landfill and who are most affected by its negative effects.

Roxanne Backowski is one of them. Backowski said everyone she spoke to in the neighborhood association would back out of the proposed property protection plan because it’s too complex.

Kathy Campbell, a new member of the landfill site committee and a member of the neighborhood association, said people opting out of the property protection plan could result in homes selling below fair market value.

“This discharge, while we understand it’s necessary, we also understand it’s necessary to control it for the integrity of our community,” Campbell said. “The way to control it is to have fair compensation for those affected…and fair property value protection so we can maintain the size and value of our neighborhood.”

Stay away

Annual payments and protecting property value continue to be the biggest sticking points between the Landfill Siting Committee and GFL Environmental, the owner of the landfill since 2020.

“We are still far apart on the scope of impact payments and protection of property value,” GFL attorney Timm Speerschneider wrote in a Feb. 4 letter to the settlement committee.

Currently, landlords near the landfill do not receive annual payments or property value protection. Annual payments compensate residents for the adverse effects caused by living near a landfill, such as noise, odors and litter. Property Value Protection, also known as Property Value Guarantee, ensures that homeowners receive fair market value in a sale.

GFL is proposing to expand the size of the landfill from 10.56 million to 14.64 million cubic yards over a six-year period. However, expansion cannot begin until local control negotiations with the Landfill Siting Committee are settled. Negotiations began in 2019.

The most recent landfill committee meeting took place last October. Since then, GFL lawyers and the settlement committee have exchanged offers.

In the settlement committee’s latest bid on Jan. 22, about 80 properties within three-quarters of a mile of the landfill would be eligible for property value protection. GFL has previously agreed that approximately 20 properties are eligible to receive protection.

“We believe the scope should be limited to owners who acquired their property before 2005,” Speerschneider wrote.

According to its letter, the neighborhood association wants property value protection within one mile of the landfill “for all residential, vacant and agricultural land,” which would make more than 100 properties eligible.

“Let’s keep it just a mile away, because then we don’t pick and choose and the neighbors aren’t (pitched) against each other,” Backowski said.

The neighborhood association also believes that wording in the site committee’s offer stating that property value protection would apply within a certain distance of the landfill’s “active landfill” should be replaced. by “landfill limits” so that more properties are eligible.

The neighborhood association sent its letter to the site committee in December because it “was frustrated by its inability to receive timely information on matters of great importance such as the value protection plan ownership, and to provide timely feedback,” Westerberg wrote.

Anders Helquist, lawyer for the landfill site committee, noted in his January 22 letter to GFL that the committee is considering requests from the neighborhood association.

“The committee heard from residents with additional concerns about language, and the committee may seek to address those concerns under different terms than those originally proposed,” Helquist wrote.

The committee is now awaiting a counter-offer from GFL regarding the wording of the property protection plan.

Sell ​​houses?

In addition to the number of eligible properties, the neighborhood association challenged several site committee proposals in the land value protection plan. None of the proposals have yet been finalized.

The latest proposal from the implementation committee grants GFL the right of first refusal. This means that GFL can match a third party offer to buy a home or pay the difference between fair market value and the third party offer.

“GFL cannot force a sale or get a first chance to buy, but it could review the offer and have a chance to decide quickly whether it would rather buy than pay the difference in value,” wrote Stephen Nick, chairman of the implementation committee. in an email.

The neighborhood association has called for the right of first refusal to be removed, arguing that the provision will attract less interest from potential buyers.

“No one will make an offer if GFL can step in at any time and buy the property,” Westerberg wrote.

Campbell, who lives about half a mile from the landfill, fears that homes purchased by GFL will sit empty, which could degrade the neighborhood.

“None of us want to sell our homes to GFL,” Campbell said. “We don’t want their facilities to obscure and devalue our community any more than they have.”

The neighborhood association requested that the guaranteed sales period be reduced from 270 to 180 days to shorten the sales process. The Guaranteed Selling Period is the number of days a home must be on the market “before GFL is required to purchase it at appraised (fair market) value,” Nick wrote in an email. Owners could still sell to any buyer at any price before the end of the guaranteed sale period.

The neighborhood association also asked the committee to remove a provision that landlords would reduce the selling price of a home by “10% every 120 days until a good faith offer to purchase is made.” obtained or that (GFL) buys the property”.

The neighborhood association supports certain aspects of the committee’s offer, including eliminating the cap of three properties per year eligible for property value protection and restricting the deed limiting GFL from extending discharge operations if it buys a property.

Peace of mind

Jessica Janssen, chair of the Seymour Town board and member of the settlement committee, said the letter from the neighborhood association provided helpful clarification and that neighbors had always voiced their concerns.

For Backowski, who lives about a mile from the landfill, the main concern is receiving fair market value when selling a home. As proposed, she and her husband would not be eligible for property value protection or annual payments.

Backowski has a stake in the process but is also worried about her neighbors.

“I’m not doing this specifically for me or my husband,” Backowski said. “I think people within a kilometer of the landfill should be compensated.”

Backowski said protecting the value of the property would provide insurance about a potential sale, as she and her husband do not plan to stay in the area for the rest of their lives.

“It would give us some peace of mind as owners that we could sell our property and get fair market value,” Backowski said. “We are constantly thinking about the resale value of our home and our property…I think that worry is heightened for people who are even closer to the landfill.”

Annual payments

In its January 22 offer, the Landfill Siting Committee changed its annual payment offer to $1,500 per year with annual increases of 2.2% for about 80 homeowners living within three-quarters of a mile of the landfill. Previously, the committee offered $1,500 per year with annual increases linked to the consumer price index. GFL’s last offer was $1,500 per year with annual increases of 1.5% for about 60 owners.

The neighborhood association previously offered $3,500 a year for homeowners within a half mile of the dump and $2,000 for those between a half and one mile of the dump.

Three of Wisconsin’s five GFL-owned landfills provide annual payments and property value protection to neighboring landowners. At all three landfills, GFL maintained existing compensation measures when it resumed operations in 2020. All three agreements provide for annual payments above the $1,500 per year proposed by the implementation committee.

Backowski asked why the committee’s proposal was relatively weak.

“When we see these numbers being so low compared to other dumps, it’s like, ‘What’s going on? What’s this committee’s priority?'” Backowski said.

The settlement committee also reduced its tonnage fee offer from $2.35 to $2.25 per ton. GFL increased its offer from $1.95 to $2.00 per ton. The current level is around $1.75 per tonne. Tonnage charges help pay for effects such as wear and tear caused by garbage trucks on county roads.

Next steps

In his February 4 letter, GFL attorney Speerschneider requested an in-person meeting between GFL and the settlement committee to discuss properties eligible for compensation and protection.

“The level of detail required to reach agreement on these issues requires a face-to-face discussion where maps and plots can be reviewed and discussed openly.” Speerschneider wrote.

Nick said a meeting with GFL has not been set. The implementation committee is planning its next regular meeting, probably in March.

Meanwhile, members of neighborhood associations will continue to press for compensation and protection.