Dalton zoning

Jon Swan, creator of the Save Forest Lake website, speaks at a July 23, 2019 informational hearing at the Dalton Municipal Building in favor of the adoption of emergency temporary zoning which he and other residents believed would prevent the construction of a landfill in their community. At the 2019 Special Town Meeting, voters adopted emergency temporary zoning by margin of 25 votes, 154 “Yes” to 129 “No.”

CONCORD — The campaign to create a buffer zone between landfills and state parks in New Hampshire ended abruptly Monday when House negotiators dropped their demand that it be a part of an unrelated bill dealing with future disasters or states of emergency.

Supporters of Save Forest Lake, which opposes a new landfill to be built near the state park in Dalton, vowed to return in the 2022 session to resume the fight for this change.

On a bipartisan basis, the House had approved a separate bill (HB 177) to create a two-mile buffer that would have New Hampshire join 11 states that have some mandatory setbacks to locate landfills. But last month the Senate voted to kill the bill, concluding the need for future solid waste disposal capacity was more important.

At its last regular business session in early June, the House narrowly had attached this buffer zone to a non-controversial bill (SB 103) allowing out-of-state firms to avoid having to be licensed here to respond to a disaster or state of emergency.

On Monday one of the House negotiators, State Rep. Andrew Bouldin, D-Manchester, made a last-ditch attempt to keep the state park buffer cause alive.

Bouldin proposed reducing the buffer to 5,000 feet or slightly less than one mile.

He also offered to strike the buffer off the books in five years, unless the Legislature voted to renew it.

“This has the House meeting the Senate more than halfway,” Bouldin said.

Sen. James Gray, R-Rochester, said his city has within its borders the state’s largest private project, the Turnkey Landfill, and there was only one citizen complaint about it in the past year.

“For the House to add this to a bill that the Senate frankly can live without, you have your choice; we can walk away and the whole SB 103 dies,” Gray warned.

Sen. Kevin Cavanaugh, D-Manchester, said the bill overrode local control and could set a dangerous precedent.

“The Senate was concerned with the state usurping local zoning ordinances. Once you open that door, where will it stop?” Cavanaugh asked rhetorically.

House negotiators back down

After a brief break, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Norman Major, R-Atkinson, said it was time for the House to back down.

“We have decided it’s best that the representative’s proposal comes in as a separate bill (next year),” Major added.

House and Senate leaders then replaced Bouldin and Cavanaugh with two Republican lawmakers on the negotiating committee who will sign the compromise.

This means the House and Senate will vote June 24 on the original bill (SB 103) as it passed the Senate without any reference to the landfill buffer.

Last spring, Littleton voters supported a nonbinding warrant article opposing the landfill by nearly a 3-to-1 margin.

Dalton has adopted zoning that would prohibit the project, though executives with the landfill developer, Casella Waste Systems, said they were confident the firm will receive a permit.

Casella executives said state Department of Environmental Services reports conclude that if new landfills aren’t built, the state will be 9 to 23 million tons short of capacity.

Without additional landfill space, they said, the state’s southern tier will max out in 2034, and the northern part of the state will run out of landfill space in 2041 according to the state’s solid waste plan.