Hennepin County hazardous waste facility is on hold


Hennepin County officials have suspended work on a plan to build a household hazardous waste collection center at 27th and University avenues NE, according to 2nd District Hennepin County Commissioner Linda Higgins.

“We had meetings with DDONE (Don’t Dump on Northeast, a neighborhood group opposed to the facility) and others. Many people opposed this project,” she said.

“I asked the staff to go back and re-work the numbers, and it got a little expensive,” she said.

Higgins said county officials are exploring other options, including another site she said might be better for the project. She did not release the location of the new possible project site, saying that the idea is in “very preliminary stages.” She did say, however, that there are “no houses anywhere near it.”

Casper Hill of the City of Minneapolis Communications Department said Friday that the city’s Solid Waste and Recycling Department is using the 340 27th Ave. NE property to store trash carts and recycling carts, but was not able to contact officials who might know of future plans for the site.

The city bought the property for more than $2 million in early 2011, anticipating a city/county collaboration to construct a county household hazardous waste drop-off facility, plus a replacement for the city’s Southside transfer station, which handles residential construction and demolition debris. About a year later, city officials decided not to pursue a facility on the site, which left the county’s proposal for a household hazardous waste similar to the one it now operates in Bloomington. Now the planning for that facility has been suspended.

When the project was proposed in 2010, residents near the property formed DDONE to challenge the plan. They first challenged the zoning on the property, saying that its medium-industrial zoning did not permit a waste transfer facility. City zoning officials said the project was not a waste transfer facility, but instead was to be a recycling center, which is permitted under the property’s zoning.

The Minneapolis City Council agreed with zoning officials, and DDONE filed a lawsuit to stop the plan. The judge in the case dismissed the suit, agreeing with city officials that the project’s planning was not far enough along to allow for a judicial determination on the legal issues.

In the early 2012 ruling, Hennepin County District Court Judge Bruce Peterson wrote that DDONE’s lawsuit “raises significant political questions about where to locate an important public facility which may have some negative consequences to it its neighbors, and a significant legal question about whether a prohibited use which is an inevitable byproduct of a permitted use therefore bars the permitted use. But the City of Minneapolis has not yet sought the site plan and zoning approval necessary for such a facility. By jumping the gun, Plaintiffs have deprived the City of an opportunity to develop a final plan for the facility and to present it in a form that is most politically acceptable and technologically effective. Plaintiffs are entitled to a thorough exploration of their concerns. However, now is not the time and this court is not the place.”

“…It appears advisable at this time to grant the City’s motion [to dismiss the lawsuit]. All parties will benefit from providing the City time and opportunity to thoughtfully develop a final proposal, the details of which may then be fully considered in the appropriate forum.”

Marie Zellar, who was active with DDONE until recently, said the county’s decision to look at other options makes sense. “I’m not surprised,” she said. “It didn’t seem to make financial sense.” Noting that DDONE had challenged the project based on zoning, she said, “We never really got around to that [financial analysis]. It’s just not the best best place [for such a facility].

“We’re happy. Hopefully there’ll be a good decision on how the city can repurpose that property.”