2017-12-31 / Insight

Composting operation ramps up operation in Lapeer Township

BY ANDREW DIETDERICH


Lapeer Township Planning Commission member Dan Gingell took GFL officials to task in November for keeping him from accessing the company’s large composting operation for which it seeks a special land use permit. 
Photo by Andrew Dietderich Lapeer Township Planning Commission member Dan Gingell took GFL officials to task in November for keeping him from accessing the company’s large composting operation for which it seeks a special land use permit. Photo by Andrew Dietderich Though composting had taken place for some time at a 238-acre site in Lapeer Township, a Sterling Heights-based company made plenty of news in 2017 trying to take it to the next level.

GFL Environmental USA Inc. acquired the former site of Newark Aggregate & Landscape Supply Inc. in Lapeer Township for $3.5 million in a deal that closed June 9, according to county records.

Just 10 days later, officials from GFL Environmental USA — which stands for “Green For Life” — were in front of the Lapeer Township Planning Commission detailing their plans as part of a public hearing held in conjunction with the special land use permit the company seeks.

And then again in September.

And then again in November.

In November, Rick Burns, senior vice president, Northville-based NTH Consultants Ltd. (on behalf of GFL), told township planning commission members that GFL wasn’t ready to present a new application for special land use permit to the township, but that it was “too long” before the commission’s next meeting in January to not address outstanding issues identified by commissioners during their September meeting.

“In the ensuing two months, we’ve accomplished quite a bit,” Burns told commission members. “And I know that the interest remains high.”

GFL’s “brief” presentation turned into about two hours as township planning commissioners took company officials to task over various issues, including why the company appears to have doubled the number of acres being used for composting and why it took suggestions from planning commissioners to get some things done.

“I’m pleased to see you guys are moving in some directions that maybe we pointed you in,” said Planning Commissioner Phil Thick, liaison from the township board. “But you guys are the experts, and you had to have us point you.”

As with all meetings in which GFL presented, neighbors and planning commission members expressed concern over two primary issues: odor and effect on water (Hunters Creek cuts directly through the property).

Joe Munem, spokesperson for GFL, said the company has not only taken steps on-site to minimize impact on the area, but also increased community engagement – including actively monitoring Facebook comments about operations at the site, and distributing postcards with contact information for anyone with concerns.

Further, as The County Press learned through a request made via Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act, Munem himself submitted a FOIA request to the township on Dec. 4 to obtain all written complaints about the site dating to 2000.

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