City Councilmember Robert Zwolak has every right to be concerned about a recent influx of recycling facilities opening here or proposing to do so.
He’s been around long enough to remember past city development projects that ended up as environmental disasters.
The one freshest in memory was the medical waste incinerator in which its original developers promised smokestack emissions would be 99.9 percent clean. That turned out to be a lie, and it took activists here several years to get the attention of county and state officials to close it down.
Before that the city had a horrible experience redeveloping a former paint plant site. Long story made short, it ended up costing taxpayers several million dollars to fix.
Now that we have two recycling plants about to begin operations and now two more in the works, Zwolak wanted to put the brakes on one of the facilities, for just a few weeks, in order to take a closer look at the possible consequences of its operation, environmentally-speaking.
Last week the council was asked to sign on to a host agreement with a new company called Vincent Christopher LCC. The company is proposing to recycle construction and demolition debris from housing and commercial buildings.
The plant would be located at a vacant site on Vincent St. – next door to a residential neighborhood.
Considering that the city has dragged its feet for over two months in deciding on whether to rezone a former industrial site on St. Aubin and was asked last week to decide on the spot about the recycling proposal, well, waiting another two weeks didn’t seem unreasonable.
But his colleagues on council decided to agree to the host proposal. That’s OK, but we had the same impulse Zwolak had.
These types of development proposals all seem to have the same boasts of being environmentally friendly and a boost to the local economy. How perfect can that be?
Well, it’s worth taking a closer look at these proposals because what we learned from the medical waste incinerator fiasco is that it takes much longer to undo mistakes than it does to make them.