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Claremont Board nixes effort to take construction waste at recycling center

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 8/2/2022 5:54:21 PM
Modified: 8/2/2022 5:54:20 PM

CLAREMONT — The Zoning Board of Adjustment unanimously voted to uphold a decision by the city planner that said adding construction and demolition material at American Recycling would change it from a recycling facility to a transfer station.

The unanimous decision came after arguments from the company’s attorney for allowing C&D waste, as well as from several of the roughly 40 people in attendance who spoke against overturning the June ruling by City Planner deForest Bearse. Acuity Management, the Massachusetts-based company that owns American Recycling on Industrial Boulevard, can appeal the Zoning Board decision to Sullivan County Superior Court.

Zoning Board member Dave Putnam summed up the board’s view just before the 5-0 vote, saying the board believes state guidelines do not define C&D material as recyclable and that Acuity must first obtain state permits to see how the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services views the debris.

“Because the applicant has not received permits on what can be done at the site, it is very hard to approve anything,” Putnam said. “This is a state issue.”

Acuity’s argument hinges on the definition of “recycling.” The facility is zoned for recycling, but not for waste transfer. Acuity says accepting C&D waste should be allowed because it plans to separate recyclable material out of the waste that was dumped. Bearse argues that Acuity’s proposal, which also includes transporting nonrecyclable material away by rail, would make it a transfer station.

If C&D is determined to be recyclable — the company pledges to recycle at least 50% of what it receives — then Acuity would need a variance to add the debris. But if it is defined as solid waste the company would need a special exception to operate as a transfer station. Monday night’s discussion centered on this distinction.

Attorney Jeff Christensen, with the Concord law firm of Cleveland, Waters and Bass, presented Acuity’s position to the Zoning Board. Christensen said at the outset the only question the board is being asked is whether accepting C&D changes the facility to a transfer station or keeps it as a recycling operation.

Christensen said all material now accepted for recycling comes in as solid waste and is then processed to separate out recyclables. Insulation stripped off copper wire or an air conditioner that is broken apart were two examples he gave. He said construction and demolition material would be handled in the same way.

“It is the same thing Acuity is proposing,” Christensen said. “It takes in C&D, processes the recyclable from the non-recyclables. The question before the board is, if it does this, does it become a transfer station or stay as a recycling center.”

Christensen argued that under the DES interpretation, it would remain a recycling center.

“The Solid Waste Management Bureau has confirmed that it does not become a transfer station; it can still be a recycling center,” Christensen said.

Board members disagreed with that interpretation.

“Look at DES. C&D is not recyclable material,” Zoning Board member Fred Thompson said, reading off a list of construction debris that is not considered recyclable.

Todd Russel, another board member, said half the material would have to be recycled. In response, Christensen said they would meet that threshold and if not, DES would not approve the permit.

In a follow-up question of how that percentage would be monitored, Christensen pointed to strict record keeping requirements for DES.

Dave Schiebel with American Recycling said wood, roof shingles, asphalt, bricks and concrete are all recyclable and it is in the company’s best interest to recycle as much as possible to sell rather than pay to have it transported by rail out of state.

Before it withdrew its application in 2019, Acuity proposed bringing about 500 tons of C&D material to Claremont each day and after sorting for recyclables, sending the remainder to a landfill in Ohio via rail. Putnam pointed out that the original application by Acuity three years ago referred to the operation as a transfer station.

Residents who spoke at the meeting were less concerned about how construction and demolition material is defined, and more worried about tons of the material that would be trucked into Claremont every day should Bearse’s decision be overturned and Acuity take another step toward its plans.

“It is impossible to be anything but a transfer station with 150,000 tons (annually),” said James Contois, a city councilor representing Ward II where American Recycling is located.

Mike Lemieux, a Zoning Board board member who recused himself from the discussion as he is in the construction business, said Bearse made the right decision. He further added that a 1987 variance, before American Recycling ownership, is specific on the material that can be recycled and C&D is not listed. He also said there is not enough room at the location for the projected volume.

“Show us the state permit then come in for a special exception,” Lemieux said.

Katie Lajoie, of Charlestown, disputed Acuity’s claim in its appeal that DES is the sole regulator of recycling activities at a recycling center. In a written statement, she cited state solid waste rules that say DES approval does not change any obligation to obtain all required state, federal or local permits, licenses and approval or comply with ordinances and laws.

Jon Swan, a member of Save Forest Lake, a group fighting a proposed landfill in New Hampshire’s North Country, received loud applause for his remarks. He said C&D will be trucked in from Connecticut and Massachusetts and when Ohio raises fees, it will stay in New Hampshire.

“This is a monster waiting to be born,” Swan said. “Once it is in, it is in. We know with garbage companies (come) great attorneys. Wake up, Claremont.”

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at

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