Compost Controversy

Zoning change and permit both tabled on compost. Both are linked to a composting operation in northwestern Cass County that wants to expand. Expanding the existing operation from five acres to 20 acres doesn’t appear to be much of a concern to neighbors in the area, but the addition of food waste to the compost mix had many individuals in the Horseshoe Lake area asking the Cass County Board of Commissioners to deny the request brought forward by Polished Properties, a subsidiary company of Gretna Sanitation.

The Cassgram reports there were public hearings at the county board meeting Tuesday on two issues:

-Amendment 62 to the county zoning regulations would allow for sites up to 20 acres to be used for composting of both edible and inedible materials.

-The company’s conditional use permit request.

The public hearing and resulting discussion from board members lasted nearly two hours.

Those against the expansion gave several reasons:

-It is not compatible with the area’s ‘recreational-ag’ designation because it would be detrimental to the recreational aspect.

-This I-80 corridor in Cass County is in the Nebraska Innovation Zone between Omaha and Lincoln and a compost farm as proposed does not blend with the parks, hotels, motels, entertainment venues, etc., that planners envision and would discourage economic development in the immediate area, said Kathleen Silva.

-There were those who feel like Dan McElroy does: “I am totally opposed to food waste materials” being introduced into the composting. –The main concerns with the addition of the food waste are odor, rodents and insects.

-Al Znamenacek brought up road damage and traffic concerns.

Andy Harpenau of Polished Properties explained that the windrow processing and the mix that the company would utilize would negate any smell. He stressed that the department of environmental quality is the controlling agency that would keep a watch on and inspect the operation. Composting that includes food waste is happening in many other states but Polished Properties would be the first with a permitted operation in Nebraska.

Amendment 62 would have to pass before the conditional use permit could be considered. And then there is a state-mandated schedule to follow before the county could issue the permit.

To meet the statues, Board Chairperson Janet McCartney set the next public hearing date on the permit for May 21st. In setting the date she noted that if Amendment 62—which would likely come up for a board vote before May 21st—does not pass, there would be no need for the conditional use permit hearing. But if the board does approve the amendment, the hearing will be held as planned.

The county planning commission recommended approval on both the amendment and the permit. (Cassgram Archives 2/27) However those in opposition said they did not know about the planning commission hearings at the time.

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