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During a show of hands at the Planning Commission hearing, 131 people opposed Fred Weber Inc.'s rezoning request, while 39 people supported it. Alyson E. Raletz photo (click for larger version)

Trash-transfer station would benefit county, Fred Weber contends

A trash-transfer station operating in Fred Weber Inc.'s south quarry would be a "positive addition" to St. Louis County, the company's attorney recently told the county Planning Commission.

The attorney's statement was followed with laughter and jeers from a crowd of more than 300 people who attended the March 1 public hearing conducted by the Planning Commission on Fred Weber Inc.'s request to rezone a 24.9-acre tract to the Flood-Plain Planned Industrial District from the Flood-Plain Non-Urban District. The tract is about 300 feet southeast of Baumgartner Road, east of the Burlington Railroad and bounded by the Meramec River to the southwest.

A show of hands at the end of the hearing revealed that 131 people opposed the application and 39 people supported it. The crowd had dwindled to roughly half its original size by the end of the hearing, which began at 7 p.m. and lasted until about 10:30 p.m.

Still, an attorney representing Fred Weber, Gary Feder of Husch & Eppenberger, touted the proposal to commissioners.

The trash-transfer station, he contended, would be one of the smallest in the area and would be situated in one of the most remote sites in Eastern Missouri. Furthermore, Feder asserted, the station would use the most sophisticated misting system created, which never has been used in Missouri, and it would have no significant noise impact on surrounding areas.

"We simply ask for the approval of the commission for what is recommended," Feder said. "We believe that the standards that are to be applied by the commission suggest this is a reasonable use of the property and we believe it would well serve the needs of not only south county, but St. Louis County as a whole."

But Planning Commission member Wayne Hilzinger of south county raised the Department of Public Works' recent citations of Fred Weber's south quarry.

"I guess the concern that a lot of people are having is if you had these violations with the quarry operation, what would lead us to believe that the trash-(transfer) station would not down the road have other violations?" Hilzinger asked Feder.

Feder noted that Fred Weber had been in the quarry business for 35 years.

"To the extent that there are violations, you could point fingers at the county for not bringing these things to the attention of Fred Weber," he said, adding that all of the violations, which he did not believe to be significant, were being addressed.

Gary Juergens of Ballwin, owner of Solid Waste Solutions, supported Fred Weber's proposal. He has worked in the waste industry since 1984 and began Solid Waste Solutions in 1997. In that time, he said, he had seen significant changes in the industry.

"The most significant has been the depletion of disposal capacity," Juergens said. "Without the construction of trash-transfer stations, such as the proposed facility on Baumgartner Road, our disposal options will be limited in the very near future. These limitations will increase our industry costs. They will increase distance to the disposal facilities. We'll have additional trucks. More insurance ... Ultimately these increased costs will be passed on to the consumers ... As a resident taxpayer of St. Louis County, I understand no one wants these trash-transfer stations near them."

Tom Diehl of Oakville, representing the Citizens for South County, delivered a multimedia presentation to the commissioners, expressing concern over the proximity the proposed trash-transfer station would have to the Meramec River and potential consequences to the river's flooding.

"We believe this plan will only exacerbate an extremely serious flood problem that we have in south St. Louis County, especially if Fred Weber Inc. is permitted to keep its illegally dumped mounds of asphalt, illegally constructed buildings and illegally stored construction equipment in the flood plain," Diehl said, noting that he believes the Meramec River is the fastest rising river in the metropolitan area.

In a statement he released before the hearing, he stated, " ... I believe this proposal represents a continuing pattern of misinformation and empty promises made by a corporation which cares nothing for the environment, its neighbors or the laws of St. Louis County."

Other residents argued that a transfer station would bring additional traffic to an already highly used Baumgartner Road, a transfer station only would provide a temporary fix or a "band-aid" approach to a county that needs more recycling programs, and would decrease property values.

The Planning Commission will not consider the application until April 12. To be granted a license to construct and operate a trash-transfer station, Fred Weber also would need to receive approval from the county Department of Health and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

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