The City of Claremore came before the Planning Commission this week requesting a zoning change on their 98-acre property, particularly for phase one of their project — a transfer station.
The Claremore citizens attending the meeting, however, were concerned about what happens after the zoning is changed from Agriculture to Industrial High. "This is a boot in the door…and we don't know what will be done later."
It's a sentiment that was expressed again and again as a dozen citizens addressed the Commission.
Before the citizens spoke, though, City Manager Jim Thomas was given the floor to explain both his project and his zoning change request.
He said this project has been in the works for some time and that the funds for this phase were appropriated in July.
"The city has been looking at the cost of disposing our own trash," he said, adding that all three county commissioners are willing to work with the city on a regional transfer station. "We will no longer be taking our trucks to the waste management facility in Tulsa."
Instead, he said, city trucks will dump trash into an 18-foot roll off container inside an enclosed building. He said this will save on wear and tear on the vehicles, and will show a cost savings on tipping fees.
Thomas described the transfer station as "a clean operation."
"We're not disturbing the mountain. This will be in the valley," he said regarding the location of the transfer station on the property.
In answering questions from the Planning Commission Thomas said:
• the city has six garbage trucks that run routes five days a week
• the transfer station represents 20 acres of the 98-acre property
• the city has talked to the water district and is conducting soil sampling.
Thomas said they anticipate an initial savings of $200,000 in the first year and that they'd like to have the transfer station operational by summer of 2018.
"We have been transparent with the residents," Thomas said. "The City of Claremore wants to be a good neighbor."
Camille Talley, the first resident to address the Planning Commission, said she's concerned that the zoning change could allow
for the presence of hazardous waste on the site.
Thomas interjected to say, "We're not hauling toxic waste. We're a good neighbor. We're not hauling toxic waste now, I don't see us getting into that skull and crossbones business."
"I'm concerned because once this opens up there's no telling what they can haul out there," she said, adding that everyone in the area has dealt with 'landfill issues' in the past.
"We don't know what this will entail later. It's a boot in the door and we're already at your mercy."
She asked if restrictions can be put in place to limit what can be put out there in the future.
Following her, another citizen added, "It's not just the transfer station, it's what can happen after this…Let's put in writing what it is and isn't. You want to be a good neighbor? Prove it, put it in writing."
Lisa McDaniel said the zoning change request "resembles spot zoning" and cited "applicant bias."
She suggested the city consider analyzing soil samples before making a decision.
The zoning change, she said, isn't consistent with surrounding uses.
Another area resident, Lisa Green, said the smell represented a quality of life issue for students in the adjacent school.
Derek Dennis said his biggest concern is trashing and debris falling from the trucks onto the roadway.
He also cited noise and odor issues and said "the city has other properties they could do this on."
Others echoed the sentiment that "this doesn't seem like the appropriate location."
"We're rural…and we can't vote. All we can do is stand here and talk to you," said Lisa White. "I don't think it's fair to plop it out there with people who can't fight it. …Jim has pretty words, but he doesn't answer any questions."
After each of the concerned citizens had been given their three minutes to speak their peace, Thomas was given the chance to respond to some of the concerns.
"If there's that much fear from the public that we're trying to do something under the cover of darkness," Thomas said. "We have no issues just re-zoning the 20 acres, not the full property."
Again, Thomas said the city has been transparent and open.
He said, "Our door is always open."
Ultimately, Thomas agreed to changing his zoning request to cover only the 20 acres allocated to the transfer station, not the full 98 acres. The Planning Commission tabled the vote for two weeks to allow for more time to research.