WILMINGTON – Less than a month after the operator of the Minquadale landfill took New Castle County to court over legislation that proactively limited its ability to increase the disposal area’s maximum height, the parties have reached a settlement.
The New Castle County Council unanimously approved on Tuesday, Nov. 26, a settlement agreement brokered by County Executive Matt Meyer’s office and the operator, Delaware Recycable Products Inc., a subsidiary of Waste Management.
The dispute arose earlier this year after DRPI applied in 2018 to the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control to increase the landfill’s permitted max height from 130 feet to 190 feet at the site located at 246 Marsh Lane, nestled between Interstate 495 and Route 13. The site is exclusively used for the disposal of construction and demolition debris, and DRPI has warned that without a height increase the site could be closed.
A May public hearing on the proposal raised concerns from the public that drew in county and state legislators as well as outside community and environmental groups.
In August, the county council approved an ordinance that required heavy industrial projects to obtain a special use permit and limited the maximum height for landfills to 140 feet. Meyer signed the law shortly afterward.
On Oct. 30, DRPI filed suit in the Delaware Court of Chancery against the county, council and executive seeking injunctive relief from the newly instituted ordinance. In its 141-page filing, the company argued that the ordinance was arbitrary and inconsistent with the county’s Comprehensive Development Plan. It’s approval also deprived DRPI of its vested right to have its permit request considered by DNREC since it was filed before the county council wrote the law, the company argued.
The county has denied all of the company’s claims.
In the settlement now reached, DRPI will limit its request to DNREC to 140 feet, dismiss its lawsuit with prejudice, and waive all claims against the county regarding the ordinance. In turn, the county will not require DRPI to obtain a special use permit, which would require it to make its case in a public New Castle County Board of Adjustment meeting.
Each party will be responsible for their own costs in the litigation under the settlement’s terms.
Although no council member commented on the settlement prior to voting on it – several cited the fact that they were still technically in litigation until parties signed as the reason for not elaborating – others did weigh in.
State Rep. Franklin Cooke (D-16), who represents the area where the landfill lies, said that he did not consider the issue to be over.
“I will continue to fight the environmental injustices in my district,” he told the council. “Jan. 14 is around the corner and I will continue this fight with the landfill.”
Meanwhile, Sherri Evans-Stanton, chapter director of the Delaware Sierra Club, an environmental advocacy nonprofit that had been among a coalition of groups fighting a height increase, said that while she understood the council’s position, she hoped that they will “be watching and paying attention to air quality violations and the somewhat cavalier response that the company has given.”
Following the council’s approval, Meyer wrote on Facebook that he was appreciative of the “leadership of (Councilman) Jea P. Street Sr., Rep. Franklin Cooke and so many others in County Council and in the State House of Representatives on this issue, as well as the inspiring voice of leadership we heard from Delaware Sierra Club, Artesian Water, Indivisible Highlands and so many others.”
By Jacob Owens