The Madison Avenue side of the existing site of American Waste Haulers, where a proposed truck fueling station is to be built if the plan is authorized by the Maywood Board of Trustees. Google Maps.
Monday, December 1, 2014 || By Michael Romain || Updated: December 5, 2014 || 12:09 PM
While the truck-only fueling station presents an opportunity for Maywood to realize much-needed tax revenue, many residents say the economic benefit isn’t worth the environmental and health costs
MAYWOOD || A proposed natural gas fueling station has many residents who live within close proximity to what would be the development site fuming with frustration over the process by which it was brought to the village’s attention and its possible environmental ramifications.
The fueling station would be located at 2100 Madison Street, the current site of American Waste Haulers, a waste transfer station that handles biodegradable material.
According to a staff memo (PDF: Lavoie and Associates), the proposed development “includes demolishing three buildings and constructing a new office/maintenance building and the construction of a fueling station with pumps to serve three lanes of traffic.” The waste transfer station will maintain its existing operations.
More than a dozen residents, many of whom live within the vicinity of the proposed fueling station, vented a range of concerns at a November 19, Planning and Zoning Commission meeting.
Prominently among them, however, was a common complaint of longstanding among residents who live or venture near the Madison Avenue waste facility — a complaint that precedes the fueling station proposal.
“The fumes off of that thing are horrible,” said Commissioner Joe Ratley, referring to the putrid odor that emanates from the waste transfer station. He said that he could easily imagine the smell being enough to prohibit people from visiting friends and family who live near the facility.
His concern was echoed by many other residents, including Trustee Chery Ealey-Cross during a September 24, Legal, License and Ordinance Committee (LLOC) meeting, who brought it up after the proposal for the fueling station was presented to the Board.
“I’m a walker and I take the route and when I get in your area, I have to move fast,” Ealey-Cross said to William Vajdik, who owns and manages the waste transfer station. Ealey-Cross said that the odor is often so strong that it feels as though she’s “about to pass out” when she approaches the area.
Residents in attendance at the Planning meeting complained that American Waste Haulers doesn’t adequately care for its surroundings. The current concerns, many residents feel, will only be added to the potential problems that may arise after a truck fueling station is added to the waste transfer station.
The residents’ collective reasoning is, ‘If American Waste can’t take care of the operations that it’s currently responsible for, then how will they manage the added responsibilities of a fueling station?’
“I’m concerned about pollution along the Prairie Path,” said resident Loretta Brown, who is also a member of the Environmental and Beautification Commission, as well as a member of the Prairie Path Association.
Brown said that, in addition to the potential exhaust fumes that may come with the a fueling station, the point on the path that abuts the waste transfer station is currently an eyesore. She also brought up concerns about how pedestrians and bikers using the Path may be affected by the increased truck traffic.
Planning and Zoning Commissioner Sarah Lira echoed Brown’s concerns, noting that the area surrounding American Waste is littered with trash, odorous and, according to residents’ claims, has experienced numerous oil spills.
Tenner Ferguson, a senior citizen who’s been living on 20th Avenue in Maywood since 1962, said that she welcomes the added tax revenue that the village may realize from the fueling station, but not at the expense of her health and the wellbeing of her neighbors, many of whom are also senior citizens. She presented a petition with the names of 20 homeowners in the area, all of whom object to the proposed development.
“I want to see Maywood progressing, but not at the cost of the seniors and all the people living close to that place,” she said. “I wish you could pass by there and see what’s going on behind there with all those chemicals.”
Vajdik said that the odor that emanates from his facility comes from organic yard waste and doesn’t present a health risk for residents. However, he also noted that he’s constantly trying to mitigate the odor through the application of surfactant-based spray on the waste. Surfactants are agents that act to disperse odor-causing bacteria.
American Waste Haulers services many small landscapers that will sometimes pile three days of grass clippings onto their vehicles, which starts to stink, Vajdik said. He noted that he often advises landscapers against piling on old grass clippings to prevent the accummulation of decomposed yard waste that leads to the odor.
“If the prevailing winds are from the north, there’s never an issue [with the smell],” Vajdik said. “When we have south winds, then [the odor[ blows north.”
But Vajdik didn’t address whether or not the surfactants present a potential threat to the surrounding environment and/or to the health of residents. As of press time, Vajdik could not be reached for comment.
According to a toxic substance profile composed by the UK Marine Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) Project, there are hundreds of compounds that may be used as surfactants and their toxicity levels vary. The actual threat potential of the surfactant that American Waste Haulers is using depends on the compound(s) it’s employing as surfactants.
Regular (top) and enlarged (bottom) concept plans of the fueling station development, extracted from a C.M. Lavoie & Associates memo.
Costs and benefits
Both Vajdik and Christopher Lavoie of C.M. Lavoie & Associates, a structural engineering firm with offices in Downers Grove, Plainfield and Chicago, noted that the addition of the fueling station would provide a major solution to American Waste Hauler’s environmental and beautification issues — although it’s unclear how the fueling station would relieve residents’ odor issues.
According to a memo prepared by Lavoie & Associates, the trucks “utilizing the proposed fueling station will enter the site via the 25th Avenue entrance and exit onto 19th Avenue.” The station would operate 24 hours a day.
Christopher Lavoie said that, if approved, he anticipates the fueling station to begin operations by next year. During its initial years, it will serve conventional diesel fuel and will slowly transition to liquefied natural gas (LNG) within three years.
At the November 19, Planning meeting, Lavoie said that, in addition to the construction of the new office building and fueling station, the entire site of the fueling station and waste transfer station will also get new and improved screening and landscaping.
Lavoie mentioned that the diesel fueling tanks will be underground, while the LNG tanks will be above ground. Both tanks, and the entire facility, are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), he said — regulatory requirements that are “no different than [those of] any other gas station,” Lavoie said.
He also noted that, although the presence of exhaust fumes is inevitable, the truck traffic in the area won’t increase substantially above the heavy traffic that is already prevalent within the large strip of land that spans Bellwood and Maywood between 19th and 25th Avenues.
Lavoie said that — contrary to residents concerns that the fueling station would attract additional, unwanted truck traffic to the area — the fueling station would only be taking advantage of the enormous amount of truck traffic that is already there.
Angela Smith, Maywood’s business development coordinator, said that the area between the two suburbs has long been a hotbed for trucks.
“This is a huge trucking area,” Smith said. “Maywood is a gem as far as trucking goes. I can’t tell you how many calls I get to do truck storage.”
Lavoie projects that within the first three years of operation, the fuel station would service between 8 and 10 trucks an hour. Based on a 24-hour operating schedule, with $4.25/gallon for diesel fuel and a two percent local sales tax, the village could realize nearly $320,000 a year in sales tax revenue during its first year of operation.
Sales Tax Revenue Projections
Those projections, however, may need to be downgraded by at least half, considering that Maywood’s current sales tax is one percent and the planning commission recommended that the developers reduce the proposed hours of operation for the fueling station.
But even if Lavoie’s sales tax projections are cut in half, the amount of annual sales tax revenue the village could stand to receive would be rather substantial. And that’s not considering the possible increase in property taxes the site could capture once the development site is renovated, Smith noted.
There were six subject properties listed on the petition C.M. Lavoie & Associated submitted as part of the development process. In 2013, according to the Cook County Property Tax Portal, those six properties brought in more than $65,000 in property tax revenue to the village.
“American Waste is one of the larger property tax payers to the village,” Smith said on November 19. “This would allow the asssesor to revisit the site and the village would then caputre the improvement to that site by inceasing the taxes to this project.”
Smith said that Vajdik, who said that he’s been in business in Maywood for more than 40 years, has never taken advantage of any tax incentives or subsidies to alleviate the tax burden on American Waste’s properties.
At the September 24, LLOC meeting, attorney Michael Jurusik said that the village has the option of exercising its Home Rule authority to implement a fuel tax so that it can capture even more revenue from the proposed fuel station.
In the past, Jurusik noted, the Board has been against this measure because it would also increase the taxes for every other gas station operating in Maywood — a collective cost that may not be worth the benefits accruing from a single site, Jurusik pointed out.
The fueling station’s potential benefits and Lavoie’s safety assurances, though, weren’t sufficient relief for residents like Charles Flowers, who didn’t think that Lavoie’s revenue projections and background research were exhaustive enough, or that the developers included enough stakeholders in the process.
“This project is top-heavy economically,” Flower said. “No one has to have their quality of life affected by a project. The chart displayed in the PowerPoint in terms of the number of trucks is a guestimate. I would dare say there are feasibility studies to determine the amount of of traffic that would come in and out.”
Flowers said that the block clubs within vicinity of the development site weren’t consulted, a sign he said reflected what could be low expectations on the part of Lavoie and American Waste concerning the level of sophistication among Maywood residents.
“Yes, natural gas is clean, but it’s not the cleanest,” Flowers said. “I was looking for some compound information here that I didn’t see. [Those fuel storage tanks] do open up the possibility of water contamination [so] there are tons of things, research-based, that need to be expressed. Economic development is great, but you have to satisfy the basic needs. We don’t need guestimations, we need exactness,” he said.
“This wouldn’t happen in Winnetka,” said Flowers. “They would’ve demanded accountability before you even got to this point. Don’t play us. We are an intelligent people who can ask the right questions.”
As part of the development process, Lavoie was required to mail a public notice of the intent to build a fueling station to all properties within 350 feet in all directions of the development site, but several residents who were in attendance at the November 19, meeting said that they didn’t know anything about the project until it was almost too late to form a response.
One woman, Dorothy McAlister, of the 800 block of S. 21st Avenue, said that she received the notice not long before the November 19 meeting.
“We didn’t know anything about this coming in our area,” said another Maywood resident, Mary Pepper Brown, who also lives in the affected area. Like Tenner Ferguson, Brown submitted a petition comprising about 20 signatures of residents who live in the 800 block of South 20th Avenue and who are firmly against the fueling station being developed.
Lavoie said that he was careful to double-check property pin numbers to ensure that the notices were being sent out to the requisite addresses. Karl Palmquist, Maywood’s planning coordinator, said that his office received receipts confirming that the notices had been mailed.
However, Lavoie acknowledged that he didn’t approach the 600 and 800 block block clubs because he wasn’t aware that they existed.
Angela Smith, though, tried reassuring the residents that this wasn’t due to a lack of effort. She said that Lavoie and his team has submitted dozens of drafts of the proposal, most of which were changed in response to concerns expressed by residents and village officials.
In response to residents’ concerns that he and his client, American Waste Haulers, were taking advantage of the perceived unsophistication of Maywood residents, Lavoie insisted that their interest in developing a fueling station in Maywood was primarily due to the property’s configuration and its proximity to 25th Avenue and the Eisenhower Expressway.
“[Trucks] can get in and out of this area without going on a residential street,” Lavoie said, noting that there are several buffers between the proposed site, and both the Prairie Path and residential properties. The adjacent space in Bellwood, he said, doesn’t offer those advantages.
The majority sentiment among the Planning and Zoning Commissioners was to arrive at a middle-ground between recommending that the site be built, but only after attending to the most pressing of the residents’ concerns.
The Commission voted affirmatively to recommend to the village Board that the fueling station be built, but with several caveats. They included that the operating time not be 24 hours, that more traffic signals be placed on the streets surrounding the site and that the American Waste address beautification issues, particularly along Prairie Path.
Commissioner Joe Ratley was the only vote against the recommendation. The next step is for the proposal to go before the Maywood Board of Trustee, which is the body that has the power to actually authorize the development.
“Natural gas is the next wave of energy in this country and here’s an opportunity for Maywood to at least be on the forefront,” said Commissioner William Smith.
“We have to look at [this development] from the perspective of what is right for us and if this is going to give us a solution in terms of money and keep the residents happy, I’m all for it,” said Commissioner Lynn Vallow.
“A lot of the problem is that the owner has not paid attention over the years,” said Commission Chairman Cliff Christianson.
“When you talk about a new project, [residents] are hesitant,” he said. “Whatever happens here, [the owner of American Waste] will probably pay more attention in the future and when another project comes up, he’ll find that the people will be more receptive to it.” VFP
For regular updates, ‘Like’ VFP on Facebook or ‘Follow’ to receive us in your inbox:
Click the photo below to see what these angels have in common!