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Lexington

Property owners object to organic waste proposal

Property owners along Hartwell Avenue in Lexington are asking selectmen to back off a proposal for an organic-waste processing facility that the landlords say would make it difficult to sign new tenants.

Selectmen are considering housing an anaerobic digester, which uses micro-organisms to break down discarded organic materials and create fuel for making electricity, on an old landfill site on Hartwell Avenue, and may issue a request for proposals from companies interested in setting up and operating the facility.

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But representatives of several property owners and landlords in the nearby commercial district asked selectmen at their meeting last week to reconsider the proposal.

Issuing the request for proposals “introduces doubt and uncertainty into the marketplace in which we all compete for tenants and we will lose,” said Stephen Lynch, a co-owner of King Street Properties.

Alexandria Real Estate Equities Inc. representative Dan Cordeau said he doesn’t know whether an anaerobic digester will emit odors, and the uncertainty creates problems for his company when it is seeking to have tenants sign leases on Hartwell Avenue.

Lexington is one of a handful of communities that received a grant from the state Department of Environmental Protection to investigate housing an anaerobic digester, which breaks down organic waste in a process that creates “biogas” that can be burned to produce electricity, and the leftover material can be used as fertilizer.

Board of Selectmen chairwoman Deb Mauger has said the town is investigating the process in part because Town Meeting passed a resolution asking that officials consider the impact local initiatives have on climate change.

‘It will blight the community.’

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Diverting organic waste to anaerobic digesters would reduce the amount of waste going into landfills and provide a source of renewable energy, according to the Department of Environmental Protection.

Lexington is also considering other “green” proposals, such as ground-mounted solar panels at the Hartwell Avenue site and some town-owned buildings.

Sustainable Lexington, a committee appointed by selectmen, will hold a public hearing on the proposal next Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Cary Memorial Hall.

In June, the town held public meetings about anaerobic digesters, and residents raised concerns about odors, noise, and the number of trucks that would be hauling waste to the site.

Selectmen on Sept. 9 decided to spend two weeks reviewing a draft request for proposals before considering whether to post it for a 30-day comment period.

Selectman Peter Kelley said the town has invested two years into looking into anaerobic digesters, and he does not think the town should abandon the concept until it gets more information from potential developers.

“I think the only good answers are going to come when industry has the opportunity to respond,” Kelley said.

Larry Smith, president of a real estate development company, Cranberry Hill Associates Inc., said an anaerobic digester has no benefits to landlords along Hartwell Avenue, and even publishing the request for proposals would be detrimental to them.

“There is nothing in this proposal that will bring economic development to Lexington — to anywhere in Lexington, particularly Hartwell Avenue,” Smith said. “It will blight the community.”

Rick DeAngelis, a senior vice president at Boston Properties, which owns three properties on Hartwell Avenue, asked selectmen to consider the views of property owners and what is best for the business district before issuing the request for proposals.

“I think you need to take a step back, look at the area and figure out what is our vision, what is our collective vision for Hartwell Avenue,” DeAngelis said.

Brock Parker can be reached at brock.globe@gmail.com.
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