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Salcha landfill prompts planning commission hearing Tuesday

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Posted: Sunday, August 5, 2012 11:21 pm | Updated: 10:35 am, Mon Jan 21, 2013.

FAIRBANKS — The Borough Planning Commission plans to hear public testimony at 7 p.m. Tuesday on a request for a conditional use permit for a new private landfill in Salcha that is already in operation.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation granted a five-year permit for the landfill in June, but said it would only be valid if the borough approves a conditional use permit, which hasn’t been approved yet.

There seem to be different points of view on whether placing debris at the site makes it a junkyard or a landfill, as a junkyard does not require a conditional use permit in land classified for “general use.”

The 40-acre undeveloped site is north of Canaday Road and east of the Richardson Highway in Salcha.

Canaday Homestead LLC applied for a state landfill permit in the spring, saying it would handle about 7,500 tons per year of construction debris. The existing borough landfill handles about 5,200 tons in a slow month.

A request for a conditional use permit is pending before the Borough Planning Commission from Keith Christenson of Eagle River and Larry Helgeson of Environmental Management. The landfill would be on about 19 acres of the site and be limited to “inert waste.”

Zoning near the site within four miles is general use, which is the same as no zoning, as you can do anything except build a jail.

However, landfills are one of the uses for which a conditional use permit is required in advance from the planning commission in the general use zone.

The same permit is also a necessity in that zone for nuclear power plants, adult entertainment facilities, petrochemical plants, refineries, the storage of hazardous materials and a few other specific uses. Anything else is allowed.

The land to the west of the site is residential, but the applicants bought the property and have given the residents a year to move. The property that borders the site to the north and south of the proposed landfill is residential. The property to the east is vacant.

The applicants said they expect an average of two to three trucks per day, with a maximum of 20 trucks per day at peak times.

The borough staff is recommending that the permit be approved, upon the condition that a 15-foot section of vegetation be kept, along with earthen berms of different heights.

•••

CELL TOWER UPDATE: Verizon is asking for a new hearing before the Borough Planning Commission on its cellphone tower plan near the Dog Mushers’ Hall, saying it could “substantially reduce its height and visual impact” and look for alternative locations.

In the spring, the planning commission rejected a bid by Verizon for a 150-foot cellphone tower on property owned by the St. James Temple African Methodist Episcopal Church after hearing strong neighborhood opposition. The borough assembly will meet at 5:45 p.m. Thursday to decide whether to send the matter back to the planning commission.

Meanwhile, a second appeal of a planning commission decision, a 5-3 vote approving a cellphone tower permit for the lower part of Gilmore Trail, which also faced strong local opposition, is up for appeal at

5:30 p.m. Aug. 16 The assembly will sit as a board of adjustment and there will be no public testimony on the matter.

The commission granted a conditional use permit for the Gilmore Trail site owned by David Bohart, though nearly all of the neighbors said the tower was not appropriate for the residential area.

Verizon plans to build 11 other new towers in various parts of the borough, but there have been no public hearings on those because the parcels selected by the company are classified as “general use,” which basically means they are not zoned.

In addition, Verizon plans to add its facilities to 10 existing towers.

The borough assembly had considered a plan proposed by Borough Mayor Luke Hopkins in late 2010 that would have required public notice and public hearings before towers were built on unzoned property, but after some assembly members complained about the need to better define a “tower,” the measure was tabled and has not resurfaced.

Verizon has said it plans to offer cellphone service in 2013.

Dermot Cole can be reached at cole@newsminer.com or 459-7530.

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