SENECA FALLS — The Article 78 proceeding initiated by Seneca Meadows Inc. against this Seneca County town over its passage of Local Law 3 of 2016 should be dismissed for several reasons.
That is the conclusion of memorandums of law filed by attorney Doug Zamelis on behalf of intervenors Dixie Lemmon and Concerned Citizens of Seneca County, and attorney David Hou. Hou is representing the Town Board and town.
Lawyers on both sides will make oral arguments at 2 p.m. Jan. 21 in state Supreme Court of Seneca County in Waterloo.
SMI, which is being represented by attorney Scott Turner of Rochester, is seeking to have the local law nullified. It requires the landfill to close by Dec. 31, 2025. SMI is the largest landfill in the state in terms of volume of trash deposited annually.
SMI claims the law should be voided because the town failed to comply with the State Environmental Quality Review Act; there was bias and a conflict of interest involving a former Town Board member, the late Annette Lutz; the town violated SMI’s right to due process; and the law is unconstitutional because it is preempted Article 27 of the state Environmental Conservation Law.
In response, Zamelis said SMI filed its lawsuit too late, more than four months following the filing of the local law with the state. He said SMI’s claim of vested rights to operate “rings hollow” in light of the 2007 Host Community Agreement with the town, which SMI entered into voluntarily, and the landfill’s current Part 360 state permit. Both expire Dec. 31, 2025.
“And when examined in the context of SMI’s admissions on odor, the extensive public testimony and the staggering volume of odor complaints verified by SMI itself, the text of Local Law 3 regulating solid waste management activities in Seneca Falls reflects that it is a reasonable and rational legislative exercise of the Town Board’s broad police power in response to obvious and documented evils therefrom,” Zamelis wrote to Supreme Court Justice Daniel Doyle.
Zamelis said Local Law 3, modeled closely on the Chautauqua County town of Carroll’s waste disposal law, does not allow what state law prohibits and “is by no means preempted or superseded by state law because it is consistent and works in concert with applicable state law.”
Hou’s response stated that the petition to annul or vacate Local Law 3 “suffers from several fatal flaws and must be dismissed.”
“It is legitimate for the Town Board to pass a local law to protect citizens from continuous and pervasive noxious odors and other adverse effects of solid waste management operations,” Hou said, adding that the town did comply with SEQR. “SMI voluntarily discontinued its original lawsuit of Feb. 17, 2017. Waterloo Container began its Article 78 challenging Local Law 2 of 2017, which repealed Local Law 3, on May 5, 2017.”
Hou went on to say SMI discontinued its original lawsuit “despite knowing full well the possibility that Waterloo Container’s action may invalidate Local Law 2 and reinstate Local Law 3.”
Hou added that SMI failed to state a claim on the alleged bias of former board member Lutz; her husband, Bill, owns Waterloo Container.
“It is well settled that Town Board members, as elected public officials, are entitled as a matter of public policy, to be able to express their personal opinions on matters of public concern,” Hou wrote, rejecting the argument that there was a conflict of interest with Lutz on the grounds that there was no benefit to Waterloo Container.
SMI can file a response to the motion to dismiss by Tuesday. The town and intervenors can reply to any SMI response by Jan. 17.