It’s all a matter of perspective.
That is a point one of Keystone Sanitary Landfill’s expert witnesses made during the fourth hearing on Thursday about a zoning challenge against the operation’s nearly half-century expansion plan. He contended it would not look nearly as imposing as others described.
Grass-roots group Friends of Lackawanna contends the plan to rise 165 feet above Keystone’s currently permitted peak would violate a 50-foot height restrict i on i n Dunmore’s zoning ordinance.
The group has argued the expansion would create an eyesore that towers over Dunmore, but landfill consultants contended the expansion’s visual i mpact would be minimal despite the plan to pile waste to an eventual peak of 475 feet above ground level.
Friends of Lackawanna attorney Jordan Yeager rested his case at the last hearing. Keystone’s legal team began to make
its own case on Thursday.
By the time Keystone would reach its eventual pinnacle over the decades, the landfill would be visible to 1,377 more people within a 3-mile radius than who can see it now, ARM Group found in a line-of-sight study on the expansion proposal. That breaks down to 704 people in Dunmore, 651 people in Throop and 22 people in Olyphant.
It sounds like a lot, but the company’s report argued it is only a 1.2 percent increase in people who can see the facility in a 0.88- square-mile area, a 3.3 percent increase in total geography where the landfill is visible in eight municipalities.
“My opinion is the impact is minimal and gradual,” William Tafuto, company president, said under quest i oning f rom Keystone attorney Jeffrey Belardi. “But since that is an opinion and in relative terms, I would like to give a perspective that is beyond the numbers I just cited.”
From a 3- mile radius, watching the landfill rise would be comparable in scale to a person standing at one end of a football field watching an infant grow into a 5-foot-tall fifth-grader at the other — except over a much longer period of time, Mr. Tafuto contended.
“We all know you can’t really tell the difference dayto-day of a child growing,” Mr. Tafuto said. “Now, imagine it 100 yards away, and it’s happening over 46 years instead of 10. That’s what the perspective is.”
ARM engineer Benjamin Allen, under questioning from Mr. Yeager, acknowledged the line-of-sight study did not explore the difference between what is visible to people who can already see Keystone and what they would eventually be able to see.
In response to questions from zoning board Chairman Dino Sabatell, Mr. Allen also described the expansion proposal as “relatively large” and said among about 50 studies he worked on, none has been bi gg e r t han Keystone’s.
But Mr. Tafuto discussed a new set of renderings his firm created projecting how the landfill would look and alleged a series of renderi ngs architect Michele Dempsey created that show the landfill someday looming over parts of Dunmore are distorted and “grossly exaggerated.”
For example, one of his firm’s height projections inserted a green mountain behind a photo of the O’Neill Highway plaza. It ran below — but close to — Ms. Dempsey’s version for about half of the rendering, but Ms. Dempsey’s projection showed more than double the height of the ARM version for the other half.
Another illustration from Ms. Dempsey showing the landfill rising behind a Dunmore home indicated it would be at least four times taller than ARM’s version at the highest point.
Mr. Yeager noted Friends of Lackawanna never entered those renderings into the record and questioned the relevance of bringing them up before the zoning board. Mr. Belardi argued the group used the pictures in materials it handed out to the public and contended it speaks to the group’s credibility.
The zoning board ended the meeting for the night before Mr. Yeager got a chance to cross-examine Mr. Tafuto. He indicated he had “a lot” of ground to cover, and Ms. Dempsey said she preferred to wait for the lawyer to question Keystone’s expert witness before responding to his testimony.
Mr. Tafuto also criticized a Times-Tribune graphic illustrating Keystone’s eventual peak height compared to other recognizable buildings, saying the shape was wrong.
Another Keystone witness, expansion project manager A.J. Magnotta of CECO Associates — the son of landfill consultant Albert Magnotta, an engineer who has been a spokesman for the landfill throughout the process — spoke of how the Swinick development grew over the years alongside Keystone.
He illustrated the point with a series of aerial photos that showed the development’s expansion over the decades.
“As the landfill grew, so did the Swinick development,” Mr. Belardi said after the hearing. “They keep going there and building there, and the property values are the highest there. … People want to live there. So, if it’s so awful, why is everyone building there? Why is there only about five developable lots left?”
It’s all a matter of perspective.