Landswap with Leominster Forest Would Grow Westminster Landfill

July 31, 2018

By Mina Corpuz

mcorpuz@sentinel andenterprise.com

WESTMINSTER -- Town Administrator Karen Murphy is calling a land swap that could allow the town to expand its landfill and grow the Leominster State Forest a win-win situation.

Legislation could authorize the town to acquire 85 acres of forest land, which the town plans to use for the landfill. In return, Westminster would give 175 acres to the state, increasing the forest by about 90 acres.

“We’re losing a lot of landfill space around the state, so we feel the landfill is meeting a need around here,” she said.

Acquiring the state forest land could add another 10 years to the landfill, according to a fact sheet about the legislation proposed by Reps. Jon Zlotnik, Kim Ferguson, and Stephan Hay.

Extending the life of the landfill could help while solutions for longterm waste management are developed, he said.

“This will help us while we figure things out,” Hay said.

The bill is up for consideration by the House Committee on Ways and Means.

It needs a vote on the House floor and approval by the Senate by tomorrow, which is the end of the legislative session. If approved, it would go to the governor.

Last year, a state permit was issued to allow the landfill to accept nearly140,000 tons more waste annually, which increased the landfill’s life span by five years.

Previously, the landfill was expected to reach capacity in 2019.

Voters approved a zoning amendment at last year’s fall Town Meeting to create an overlay district that will allow Westminster to expand the landfill.

Landfills in Chicopee and Southbridge are expected to close this year. In 2019, the facilities in Taunton and Carver will stop accepting waste.

Although the proposed land swap would replace land in the forest, not all are in support of the legislation.

The Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Stewardship Council opposes the bill because it would destroy 85 acres of the public forest and a popular hiking trail, Chair Whitney Hatch wrote in a July 18 letter to House Ways and Means Chair Jeffrey Sanchez.

The council reviews transfer requests for protected land owned by DCR, which includes the Leominster State Forest.

Transferring the land is an “inapposite purpose, wholly incompatible with the reason that the citizens of the Commonwealth initially purchased the forest land in the first place,” he wrote.

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