As Casella Waste Systems nears the end of its landfill in Bethlehem that is projected to reach capacity and close in about 2025, the company is evaluating property in Dalton for a new landfill there, on land abutting Forest Lake State Park.
Casella experienced a setback on Wednesday, however, when the Dalton Planning Board denied a lot line adjustment to create a 300-acre lot with no abutters.
Planners concluded the request is essentially seeking a subdivision as defined under state law.
Unlike typical planning board meetings in Dalton, Wednesday’s proceeding drew dozens of residents from both Dalton and Whitefield.
“It was an incredible turnout,” said Rep. Troy Merner, R-Lancaster, on Friday, whose district includes Dalton and Whitefield.
The planners decided not to hear the application when it was stated that three lots would be created, equating to a subdivision, he said.
Merner said the meeting got contentious, who attended after being contacted by some of his constituents who had concerns about a possible landfill being built in the area.
Because the land borders Forest Lake State Park, representatives from the New Hampshire Division of State Parks also attended, said Merner, who was the only state representative and public official in attendance.
Representing Casella were Kevin Roy, district manager for North Country Environmental Services, Casella’s New Hampshire subsidiary, and Casella engineer John Gay.
“I said if you do this lot line adjustment, you are only looking at 50 feet to Forest Lake,” said Merner.
The plan discussed Wednesday entails Casella owning the 300 acres and current property owner Douglas Ingerson Jr. owning all of his land around it, which would make him the only abutter to Casella, he said.
“Yet there is only a 50-foot buffer from the state park,” he said. “I said I’m here because there are a lot of concerns from people from Forest Lake and people from the town of Whitefield. You just move these lines and there is no going back. “
Casella’s plan is one that would constitute a regional impact, said Merner, who said he voiced concerns about truck traffic.
In speaking with Gay, Merner said a landfill in Dalton would be serviced by some 90 trucks a day going up Route 3 to Route 116 in Whitefield, then down into Bethlehem and right onto Douglas Drive, at the entrance to Ingerson’s other business, Chick’s Sand and Gravel, off of Route 116 and near the Littleton town line.
“It takes seven years on average to get federal and state paperwork,” said Merner. “Basically, they have an application to expand in Bethlehem. They run out of space in 2025, and if they get this ball rolling, they can get it in place by 2025 and keep trash coming to the same general area.”
In speaking with the representatives from Casella, the most that would be used out of the 300-acre swath would be about 100 acres, he said.
Unlike Bethlehem, where voters in 2017 and 2018 rejected a Casella proposal to amend the Bethlehem zoning ordinance to add another 100 acres to the town’s current 61-acre landfill district, the town of Dalton has no zoning ordinance.
In January, Casella and Ingerson, under Ingerson’s business name, J.W. Chipping, entered into an option to purchase a total of nearly 1,900 acres of Ingerson-owned land that includes almost 1,500 acres in Dalton, 331 acres in Bethlehem, and 70 acres in Littleton.
On Friday, Roy, Gay, Casella spokesman Joe Fusco, and Casella CEO John Casella were contacted via email and given the opportunity to discuss their plan for Dalton.
They did not respond by press time to questions asking how Casella will now be proceeding in Dalton after the lot line adjustment was denied, if the company will address concerns by abutters and area residents about a landfill near Forest Lake, and if another expansion proposal will be put before Bethlehem voters in the next few years.