A speaker addresses the landfill expansion project during the county's Planning Commission special meeting held Oct. 11. Photo by Monserrat Solis.
A speaker addresses the landfill expansion project during the county's Planning Commission special meeting held Oct. 11. Photo by Monserrat Solis.

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At its Oct. 11 special meeting, the San Benito County Planning Commission voted unanimously to delay certification of the John Smith Road Landfill expansion environmental impact report until the end of the month.

Commissioners Robert Scagliotti, Robert Gibson and Celeste Toledo-Bocanegra agreed to wait for Commissioner Richard Way, who is currently out of the country, Gibson said, and for Supervisor Dom Zanger to appoint someone to his District 1 seat. 

Gibson said Zanger should have an appointee, which needs to be approved by the Board of Supervisors, sworn in by Oct. 25.

Instead of discussing the project during one meeting, the commission also opted to extend the topic to three meetings. The three special meetings are scheduled for Oct. 25, 27 and 30 at 6 p.m.

The commissioners will discuss the following items at the Oct. 25 meeting:

  • Project description
  • Requested approvals
  • An overview of the California Environmental Quality Act process
  • Analyzing alternatives
  • Proposed and alternative truck haul routes, including noise and air quality
  • Fair share road impact analysis
  • Public comments on the above topics 

Items on the Oct. 27 agenda:

  • Mitigation measures and conditions of approval 
  • Significant and unavoidable impacts, including greenhouse gasses and aesthetics 
  • Groundwater and water supply
  • Economic analysis
  • Public comments on the above topics 

Items on the Oct. 30 agenda:

  • Staff will address any remaining questions and provide any requested revisions for consideration
  • Planning Commission deliberations and vote
  • Any remaining public comments will be addressed

The proposed project would expand the existing 95-acre landfill by 388 acres, bringing the total to 483 acres and increase the landfill’s tonnage limit from 1,000 tons per day to 2,300 tons per day. If approved, the landfill would reach capacity in 2087.

Before March 30, 2022, about 80% of the waste brought to the landfill came from outside the county, the county reported. On that date, the county stopped accepting out-of-county waste per a requirement in the Landfill Operating Agreement which says that out-of-county garbage would cease once the landfill’s in-county capacity is reduced to a 15-year window. 

The landfill reached that capacity in April 2022. 

Of the 25 public commenters, 19 spoke against the expansion and six spoke in favor. About 40 people attended the meeting.

Most of the commenters opposed to the expansion cited environmental impacts and road and traffic issues as primary concerns. 

“I’m opposed to the expansion of the John Smith landfill in order to accept garbage from, mostly, Silicon Valley,” county resident Mary Hsia-Coron said over Zoom. “I think that our county made a pretty major mistake, the supervisors and staff, by allowing this over 10 years ago.”

She continued, “And, of course, many speakers before me have already pointed out the damage to our roads, the fact that the revenue doesn’t seem to be adequate for our county to cover the cost” of the groundwater and air contamination.  

Among those who said they supported the expansion, Robert Rodriguez, a garbage hauler, said he is worried about the consequences if the project is rejected and expects service costs to increase. 

“It is going to increase costs a lot if we don’t have a landfill out here,” he said. “It may seem like it’s not going to happen right now. But there is no other viable situation that is currently provided to us.”

Owned by the county and operated by Waste Connections, a private company providing waste management services, the landfill’s final environmental impact report was released Sept. 29 and included community input

Major concerns among commenters in the report included groundwater contamination, traffic and road conditions, and impacts on the community. Over 90 responses from the public were presented in the final report.

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Monserrat Solis covers San Benito County for BenitoLink as part of the California Local News Fellowship with UC Berkeley. A San Fernando Valley native, she's written for the Southern California News Group,...