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Avon

Avon leaders battle trash transfer station proposal in Holbrook

Leaders in the tiny town of Avon are mad as heck about trash trucks rumbling along their roads — and they’re not going to take any more without a fight.

The officials are battling a proposal to put a trash transfer station on town-owned land in Holbrook near the Avon line. Randolph and Braintree representatives also have weighed in against the plan, which calls for a private company to build and operate the regional waste-handling facility on an 11-acre site leased from the town.

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There’s already a similar facility in Brockton and one in Stoughton, both just over the communities’ border with Avon, and the truck traffic they generate is destroying both the town’s streets and residents’ quality of life, according to Francis A. Hegarty, the chairman of Avon’s Board of Selectmen. The heavy trucks cause vibrations that bounce pictures off the walls of homes along their routes, drop debris, and pollute the air, and “they’re not the most beautiful things” to see from your front yard, he said.

The board has invited state legislators and environmental officials to a public meeting at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in Town Hall to hear Avon’s issues with the proposal by TLA-Holbrook LLC.

The company is seeking to have solid waste delivered by truck to a building on the property where it would be sorted and baled for transfer — either by rail or truck — to sites around the country for disposal.

It would mean about 100 additional trucks using Avon streets daily, and that would be intolerable, Hegarty said. Three facilities within a 3-mile radius generating more than 400 truck trips a day is too much, especially for one of the smallest towns in the state, at 4 square miles and about 4,400 residents, he said.

“There comes a point where you can’t roll over and say step on me some more,” Hegarty said. “If they think they’re going to put more trucks through the town of Avon, they are sadly mistaken. These are our roads, and we are not going to tolerate it. If it means civil disobedience, we will do it.”

‘Even if we were offered money, we’re not looking for money. We’re looking for quality of life.’

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The state Department of Environmental Protection has the authority to review the proposal and issue permits for the operation, according to DEP spokesman Ed Coletta. The project already has cleared one state hurdle; the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs gave its OK in January, saying a full environmental impact report was unnecessary.

“They’re really at the very beginning of this as far as the permits and review,” Coletta said, noting each step takes at least 60 days, and the initial paperwork had not been filed.

The project has won local approvals, although two decisions were appealed. A permit issued by Holbrook’s Zoning Board of Appeals was upheld, but the Massachusetts Land Court told the town’s Planning Board in February to reconsider its special permit, since the plan had been amended to have 36 more trucks hauling trash than the 84 originally anticipated. The town’s Board of Health also would need to review the final plan, Coletta said.

Holbrook voters agreed to a 20-year lease with TLA-Holbrook at both a 2006 Town Meeting and in a 2008 ballot question. The lease was signed in February 2009, contingent on all permits being obtained.

The town would get a sizable income from the deal, starting with $1 per ton of trash processed at the facility, or an estimated $500,000 a year, according to Town Administrator William Phelan. The company also would collect the town’s trash for free, and clean up the property, which formerly was the site of a chemical plant.

Phelan said he understands Avon’s concerns, but the project would be good for Holbrook.

“Any type of increased truck traffic that a town doesn’t benefit from, I’m sure a town wouldn’t be in favor of,” he said. “But each town has industry within it, and commerce needs to move. This is a substantial benefit to the residents of Holbrook, and, I think, a very worthwhile project.”

Hegarty doesn’t dispute the benefits of the project — for Holbrook. And he said Avon officials aren’t against the project per se, just as long as the trucks stay away from their town.

“We’re just trying to protect ourselves from traffic,” he said. “We don’t want to see it get any worse than it is. Even if we were offered money, we’re not looking for money. We’re looking for quality of life — for people to be able to enjoy their property, to sit in their homes and to look out on the street and not see a steady parade of rubbish trucks going by.”

Johanna Seltz can be reached at seltzjohanna@gmail.com.
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