Opponents cry foul over South Hadley landfill expansion
SOUTH HADLEY — Opponents of the proposed landfill expansion here have filed formal charges alleging that members of the Conservation Commission violated the state’s Open Meeting Law by refusing to allow them to voice their complaints at commission meetings.
Christine Archambault of 259 Old Lyman Road, a member of South Hadley Against More Expansion (SHAME), filed the complaint last week with state Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office.
In her complaint, Archambault charged that Conservation Commission Chairman John Fleming at an Oct. 3 public meeting severely limited public discussion of the proposed landfill expansion into 16 acres of the abutting Bynan conservation area.
She also said Fleming alluded to information and communications at the meeting that have been excluded from the public record.
Fleming could not be reached for comment.
The commission will meet tonight at 7 p.m. in Town Hall to vote on establishing Bynan property boundaries, a necessary step for the landfill expansion to precede. The boundary designations will be on the Oct. 29 special Town Meeting warrant.
The opponents’ group has also filed a request for public records concerning the same meeting, along with letters, emails, notes and maps discussing the landfill expansion plan.
So far, neither complaint has been answered by state or town officials, according to Chicopee attorney Victor M. Anop, who represents SHAME.
The conservation board has been grappling with establishing exact boundaries for the 162-acre Bynan property, bought by South Hadley with a state grant in 1978. The panel must also decide whether to accept a plan offered by landfill operator Interstate Waste Services of Ramsey, N.J., for creating a new habitat on the expansion site for the endangered pine barrens moth.
The moth larvae feed on pitch pines, which would be removed from the 16-acre expansion site.
Interstate Waste Services is offering to pay South Hadley $400,000 in mitigation funds to allow for disturbing the moth habitat and to re-establish it elsewhere on the Bynan property.
Anop said Tuesday that the conservation panel’s decision to limit public discussion about landfill plans has had “a muzzling effect” on the landfill opponents.
“It’s disrespectful and wrong,” he said. “They’re not giving us fair input. (My clients) feel that a lot of decisions are being made behind the scenes. People are really upset.”