Composting OK’d over concerns

March 21, 2019

A plan to generate compost at a concrete-crushing facility on South Anthony Boulevard Extended in Marion Township generated debate Wednesday during a public hearing.

Nearby residents attending the Allen County Board of Zoning Appeals hearing questioned the plan for part of about 79 acres now used as a concrete-crushing facility. They said additional truck traffic and possible environmental problems could result.

The board, however, unanimously approved the plan, adding it to an existing special use for the site after being assured the composting would need a state permit to open.

The site also would be inspected, and could be shut down, by the permitting agency, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, said Jeffrey Langbehn of Munster, a consultant on the project.

“We will only do it the right way,” he told the board, referring to the composting operation.

Potential environmental problems cited included odor, rodents, mud, ignition of compost piles and organic runoff onto other properties and into the nearby St. Marys River.

That could worsen Great Lakes pollution problems, said Sam Smitley, speaking for his daughter who lives at 11231 S. Anthony Blvd. Extended. “That’s a big concern of mine,” he said.

Staff members of the Department of Planning Services pointed out the existing site has encroached over the years onto a flood plain fringe. Residents said roads were torn up and often filled with mud and dust from heavy trucks using the site.

Langbehn said the organic material composted will include brush, wood chips and leaves, plus grass clippings in the spring. Also, small paper fibers that can’t be recycled into new paper from paper recycling facilities will be included, he said.

The paper fibers hold moisture and will cut down on the chance of spontaneous combustion, Langbehn said. Because no garbage will be allowed, rodents should not be a problem, he added.

The company also plans to buy a new street sweeper and install rumble strips to cut down tracking of mud, Langbehn said. The odor generated smells “like pipe tobacco” and is not objectionable, he said.

The site is a project of Bill Haak and Duneland Enterprises, which operates clean fill sites in several Indiana locations, Langbehn said.

“His sites have been named as exemplary sites” by regulators, Langbehn said. The composted mixture “makes beautiful topsoil. All we will be making there, literally, is dirt, and ... we have people literally standing in line to buy it.”

The product will likely be sold to highway departments, developers, builders, parks departments and golf course owners for maintenance and not at retail, he said.

The site is now owned by Steven and Dawn Crosby.

In other business, the board unanimously approved the following special uses:

• A barn on property owned by ACRES Land Trust along Chapman Road in Perry Township can be used as an occasional gathering spot.

• A home workshop for custom gunsmithing was granted to David Vincent to operate Pine Valley Munitions and Pine Valley Armory in two outbuildings on property at his home at 8309 Popp Road in Cedar Creek Township. No testing of weapons or shooting on the property was allowed.

• An embroidery business, including the retail sale of decorated apparel, can operate in a now-vacant commercial building at 15214 Tonkel Road in Cedar Creek Township. The use was proposed by business owner Casey Johnson, who said he would look into correcting a problem with a parking area that lacks proper setback from the right-of-way.