Potsdam town turns down request to change zoning at Casella Waste Systems property
Tuesday, June 19, 2018 - 5:35 pm

By CRAIG FREILICH

POTSDAM – The Town of Potsdam has turned down a request from Casella Waste Systems to change the zoning at the company’s yard at 147 Maple St. from residential to commercial.

The company “sent an attorney to make the case” both to the Planning Board and the Town Council, said Supervisor Ann Carvill.

Attorney Matthew Kerwin of Barclay Damon LLP was asking for the zoning change but “the reason for the request was not clear,” Carvill said.

There was some belief that the cost of a required cleanup of contaminated soil at the former industrial site would be lower under less stringent rules for commercial property than under the rules for residential property, the supervisor said.

“We were told it would be more thorough if the designation was left as it is,” she said, and the Planning Board reported a belief in a “distinct difference in cost” to the company under the desired designation.

But Kerwin “asserted the cost for cleaning up the contaminated soil would be about the same” under either scenario, she said, but he “was not clear on that point.”

She said that Councilor Judy Rich asked several times why the zoning would make a difference to them if it wasn't the cost, and a convincing reason was not given, Carvill said.

Kerwin was not persuasive, she said.

“It didn't make any sense to us, so we declined the request.”

In any case, “the town board does not support spot zoning,” which this would be, she said.

Town Planning Board Chairman Larry Averill spoke after Casella's attorney did and stated his belief that the cleanup would be more thorough under the current zoning.

“We want the most thorough cleanup that is required of the company,” Carvill said.

The property, long a metals reclamation yard before the owners joined Waste Stream's national trash and recycling business, and then joined Casella Waste Systems, was apparently “grandfathered in” as a residential property when zoning was established in the 1970s, according to Code Enforcement Officer Mike Boysuk's understanding, he said.