SENECA FALLS — Seneca Meadows Landfill will not be legally required to shut down waste disposal operations by Dec. 31, 2025.
The Town Board made sure of that Friday night, voting 3-2 to adopt a local law that rescinds a December 2016 local law requiring the landfill to close in 2025.
Voting to adopt Local Law 2 of 2017 were Supervisor Greg Lazzaro and board members Lou Ferrara Jr. and Tom Ruzicka. Board members David DeLelys and Vic Porretta were opposed.
An identical 3-2 vote was also recorded for a motion declaring no significant adverse environmental impacts under the State Environmental Quality Review Act.
The vote capped one of the most divisive and contentious issues in this community in years, and it may not be over: Groups supporting the Dec. 31, 2025, closure date are considering legal options.
Friday’s meeting featured no public comment and handheld signs were not allowed. Opponents of Local Law 2, however, voiced their displeasure after the vote, calling out phrases like “Shame on you!’’ and “Sell out!’’
Seneca Meadows Regional Manager Kyle Black, on the other hand, was pleased with the vote.
“We applaud the Town Board for addressing this tough issue head on,’’ Black said in a written statement. “They evaluated the facts, listened to both sides of the issue and took action to keep property taxes from skyrocketing and saved jobs.”
The landfill provides the town with $3 million a year under the host benefits agreement.
“Seneca Meadows is committed to working with our community, and we look forward to making sure good things happen together,’’ Black said, adding that the landfill is grateful for the opportunity to continue contributing to the local economy and supporting “many great service and charitable organizations here.’’
Seneca Falls Environmental Action Committee President Doug Avery also issued a written statement, expressing “extreme disappointment and anger’’ at the vote.
“Throughout this entire process, Supervisor Lazzaro and board members Ferrara and Ruzicka have displayed a callous disregard for the well-being of our community,’’ he said. “They have refused to listen to citizens’ concerns regarding the continued operation of the Seneca Meadows Landfill. They have been unable to produce any residents willing to speak out in favor of the landfill, except those whose direct livelihood comes from the dump.
“They have been silent as the landfill paid for their election campaigns and interfered with our democratic process,” Avery continued. “In the face of a pending lawsuit from Seneca Meadows, they repeatedly allowed themselves to be publicly wined and dined by landfill officials when they should have been holding the landfill at arm’s length.”
Avery vowed that the group would continue to fight for closure of the landfill by 2025.
“We won’t go away,’’ he said.
Lee Henry, president of Concerned Citizens of Seneca County, said the group would explore legal options in light of the vote.
How the vote unfolded
Before the vote on Local Law 2, the board first endorsed a short form Environmental Assessment Form (EAF) under SEQRA.
The EAF review was not done in open session. Consulting engineer John Condino handed out a packet containing Parts I, II and III of the EAF to board members, plus an addendum to Part III.
Lazzaro indicated that the findings had been completed Thursday.
Attorney Doug Zamelis, representing Concerned Citizens of Seneca County and Waterloo Container, asked for a copy of the document, saying he had asked for them twice in writing.
“I’m entitled to them by law,’’ he said.
“Once the meeting is over and these are part of the record, you’ll get them then,’’ Lazzaro responded.
Zamelis cited state law to support his request for the documents prior to the meeting. Lazzaro did not respond. Condino gave Zamelis the packet after the meeting.
Lazzaro then read from the documents, concluding by stating that the board had made the determination that adoption of Local Law 2 as an “unlisted action’’ would not result in significant adverse environmental impacts on the town.
He cited “findings’’ in support Local Law 2 and was critical of Local Law 3 of 2016, the measure that called for the December 2025 closure of the landfill.
“The intention of Local Law 2 of 2017 is to rescind the Waste Disposal Law in an effort to allow landfill operations to continue under existing strict local, state and federal regulations,’’ Lazzaro read from Part I of the EAF.
Part II lists 11 possible environmental impacts that could result from adoption of the local law.
The board had to check either “no or small impact may occur’’ or “moderate to large impact may occur’’ for each one.
Questions included “Will the proposed action impact the character or quality of the existing community?’’ and “Will the proposed action create a hazard to environmental resources or human health?’’
The form indicated no or small impact for each one. With that, a more detailed, in-depth environmental review was said to not be required under SEQRA.
The addendum to Part III further elaborated on why no or small impacts were determined for the 11 questions in Part II.
Lazzaro said the board considered public comments on the local law at the March 29 public hearing and the advise of its town attorney, outside legal counsel and engineers in making the SEQRA determination.
Lazzaro made the motion to adopt the SEQRA findings. Ferrara offered a second.
“A few weeks ago, we decided to file a response to the Article 78 filed by the landfill against the board over Local Law 3,’’ DeLelys said. “The environmental impacts of Local Law 2 are uncertain. There are still a lot of complaints about odors. I feel we should do the full review, not the short form and then be told we should have done the long form and have to it all over again.”
Town Attorney Patrick Morrell said the state Department of Environmental Conservation recommended the short form EAF for an unlisted, administrative action. He said Local Law 2 was not a specific, physical project.
“Are we voting on this tonight?’’ DeLelys asked.
“Yes,’’ Lazzaro responded.
“Then Tom [Ruzicka] should not vote on this. He got money from the landfill, and I think that is a conflict of interest,’’ DeLelys said to some applause.
“That was uncalled for,’’ Lazzaro said.
DeLelys said when Local Law 3 of 2016 was being considered, lawyers for the landfill sent a letter saying former board member Annette Lutz should not vote because of her outspoken opposition to the landfill as an officer of Waterloo Container.
“It was a 4-1 vote, not a 3-2 vote, so her yes vote wasn’t the key. But they would have gone to court if it was 3-2,’’ he said.
DeLelys also said the town should have responded to the Article 78 “to see if we were right or wrong’’ on Local Law 3.
Ferrara said he never agreed to fight the landfill lawsuit, noting the town spent $120,000 on legal fees last year and more this year.
“I don’t want to spend another dime in legal fees,’’ Ferrara said.
Ruzicka said “Seneca Meadows is a business, and I’m business oriented. I took their money, but other businesses also gave me money. They didn’t buy my vote,’’ he said.
“I’m for business too,’’ DeLelys responded.
The meeting ended in 33 minutes.