SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

December 7, 2012

Judge sticks with ruling on Salem transfer station

By Bethany Bray
STAFF WRITER

---- — SALEM — A Superior Court judge has stuck with his original ruling against the city’s hopes to reconstruct and expand the transfer station on Swampscott Road.

This fall, Essex County Superior Court Judge Howard Whitehead threw out a 2009 ruling by the Salem Board of Health, which approved an agreement between the city and its trash hauler, Northside Carting, to redevelop the site.

The city and Northside Carting later filed a motion for reconsideration.

This week, Whitehead stood by the decision he made in September to throw out the ruling. If the city were to make another move, it would be to take an appeal to the state Appeals Court, said Carl Goodman, the lawyer for the plaintiffs.

“That was the second bite of the apple, and the same result (happened),” Goodman said. “From our perspective, it’s a victory for public health. ... It’s my hope that rather than belaboring this issue, the various political figures in town get together to come up with a beneficial use for that parcel.”

Mayor Kim Driscoll was traveling yesterday and could not be reached for comment.

In past interviews, she has called Northside Carting’s proposed redevelopment of the site a solution, because the North Andover-based company would pay for cleanup for which the city would otherwise be on the hook.

Goodman represents a group of residents who live in the immediate vicinity of the transfer site, he said. The main plaintiff is Arthur Theophilopoulos, owner of Young World Academy, a day care center and preschool.

Northside Carting has leased the Swampscott Road site and operated a trash facility there since 2002.

The city-owned property has been a trash facility since the 1960s. The city faces pressure from the Department of Environmental Protection, which determined the site was not properly capped and needs more than $1 million in cleanup work.

Northside Carting had proposed to buy the property from the city, complete the DEP-mandated cleanup and build a new facility that would allow the company to increase the average daily amount of material trucked to the site from 100 to 400 tons.

The transfer station currently handles construction and demolition debris. Northside Carting’s redevelopment proposal would have allowed municipal waste from area communities to be trucked in.

The plaintiffs, headed by Theophilopoulos, raised concerns about the expansion’s impact on the neighborhood, including increased truck traffic. They filed their first appeal in March 2010.

“This proposal was, in our opinion, both not in the interest of public health, and not in the best interest of the neighborhood,” Goodman said.

Goodman and attorneys for the city and Northside Carting made oral arguments regarding the motion for reconsideration a couple of weeks ago, Goodman said. Whitehead made his decision on Dec. 4.

This week’s ruling means that “whatever takes place at that site will have to be done through a proper, lawful procedure,” Goodman said. “Hopefully, that means it will be something that’s appropriate for the neighborhood and consistent with the requirements of Massachusetts law.”

Several city councilors were also against Northside Carting’s proposal. Any sale of property would have to be approved by the City Council.

Driscoll has been working on the transfer station issue almost since taking office in 2006. The city faces heavy potential fines for the long delay cleaning up this polluted property, which was the city incinerator from 1963 to 1968.

Bethany Bray can be reached at bbray@salemnews.com and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.