Fred Weber asks council to overturn license denial

By Alyson E. Raletz

The St. Louis County Department of Health’s explanation for denying a license to Fred Weber Inc. to operate a trash-transfer station in Oakville was inconsistent with previous licenses the company has been granted, an attorney representing the company recently told the County Council.

The attorney, Albert Michenfelder Jr., also accused the Department of Health of not following its own rules and contended the council should overturn the department’s decision to deny a permit for a trash-transfer station on Baumgartner Road that would have hauled 500 tons of trash a day.

After more than an hour-long presentation to county councilmen defending Fred Weber Inc.’s previous proposals and the cross-examination of a Department of Health employee, councilmen opted to take the issue “under advisement” at the conclusion of a committee of the whole meeting Tuesday, Nov. 18.

Fred Weber’s attorneys will have three weeks to examine evidence presented by the county and then the county will have three weeks to evaluate Fred Weber’s evidence — which means councilmen will not be able to offer a final decision on the appeal until days before New Year’s Eve.

County Counselor Pat Redington told the Call that she expects councilmen to meet in executive session in the future. During this session, she said councilmen will hear the proposed finding of facts and conclusions from herself and from the attorneys representing Fred Weber. At this committee meeting, councilmen present would vote to finalize what decision will be presented during a public county council meeting. Once that decision is made, a quorum of councilmen during a formal council meeting will vote again whether to accept or reject Fred Weber’s proposal.

Department of Planning Director Glenn Powers opened the hearing with a presentation discussing the background of the proposal, noting that in May his department began to examine the Fred Weber proposal in terms of layout and whether it complied with planning and zoning regulations.

Powers then referred to the county’s legislation authored by John Campisi, R-south county, that mandates trash-transfer stations and waste facilities be constructed at least 1,000 feet from residences, churches, schools and child- and adult-care facilities.

“This site does not comply with that more recent regulation,” Powers said.

Michenfelder said that in April the county issued a license for a Fred Weber transfer station near Interstate 44 and Highway 41 on Elam Avenue, which now is under construction. But on Sept. 22, the county denied granting a permit to a “similar” Fred Weber proposal on Baumgartner Road.

“That site, if you look at the Elam Avenue site where a license has been issued and look at this site (they) are very comparable in terms of surrounding territory and in terms of proximity to churches and other non-industrial uses,” Michenfelder said. “The site plan and the operational plan for the approved transfer station was almost identical to that proposed in this instance.”

He told council members that the 10 reasons the Department of Health gave as justification for denying the Baumgartner Road transfer station were inconsistent with prior licenses issued to Fred Weber and contended the department did not follow its own rules. The department should have given Fred Weber Inc. notice that there were issues that had not been addressed satisfactorily and given the company 10 days to respond, according to the county’s waste-management code. Michenfelder said Fred Weber was not given that chance because it was not properly notified as required by the waste-management code.

“Given those circumstances and the failure of DOH to comply with its own governing book of law, we suggest that the council has no action but to reverse their denial.”

Michenfelder did discuss each of the 10 reasons for denial during that hearing.

One of the health department’s reasons for denial was that the proposed station would violate noise restrictions. Waste facilities must operate at no higher than 55 decibels at the property line, according to the county’s Noise Control Code. However, Fred Weber’s proposed station would operate at 85 decibels.

Michenfelder questioned Glen O’Bryan, an engineer of the Genesis Solid Waste Group, which is a consultant for Fred Weber Inc. Michenfelder asked O’Bryan if there was any way to measure sound levels before the operation had been constructed.

“Not in this circumstance, no,” O’Bryan answered. “The ordinance calls for measurements to be taken at the property line of the operation. Well, the operation doesn’t exist and the features haven’t been constructed, therefore there’s no way to measure something that doesn’t exist.”

Michenfelder contended that the noise restrictions should have been an enforcement issue after the station had been constructed. O’Bryan said he agreed and Fred Weber would have complied with the requirements once the operation was built.

During a questioning period, Councilman Skip Mange, R-Town and Country, asked if there were residences or churches within 1,000 feet of the Baumgartner site and O’Bryan answered yes.

Then Mange asked if there were any residential properties or churches within 1,000 feet of the Elam site the company is currently constructing and has been issued a county permit. The answer was no.

“You cannot compare the two sites as far as being close to a church or residential properties,” Mange said. “Within a 1,000 feet of the Elam site, it doesn’t got anything there. The Baumgartner site has quite a few … You guys know I support transfer stations, but the site is what the critical item is. It’s got to be sited properly. It’s got to mitigate residential. And I’m sorry, but your site in south county doesn’t do that.”

During the hearing, Redington questioned Janet Williams, director of Environmental Protection, a division of the health department. Redington asked Williams to explain the health department’s justification for denying Fred Weber’s application on the basis of noise levels.

Williams said that the department had written Fred Weber stating the health department’s concerns with the Noise Code violations. She said the letter asked what measures would be taken to revise its plan and comply with noise codes bringing its anticipated decibel level of 85 down to the legal 55-decibel level near buildings that fulfill residential uses.

Williams then quoted Fred Weber’s response from documents she had received from the company.

“‘Consequently we do not believe that any additional noise measures will be needed to comply with the Noise Control Code,’ which meant they were going to maintain the 85-decibel level at the site,” she said.