COA reaffirms decision for Owen County trash transfer station

The Indiana Court of Appeals in granting a petition for rehearing upheld its former decision for a family-owned trash company seeking to build a solid waste transfer station in Owen County.

In a July 2020 opinion, the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a judgment in favor of Owen County Council, Owen County Commissioners, and Owen County Board of Zoning Appeals against Monster Trash, Inc.

Monster Trash, a family-owned trash collection business hoping to set up a new transfer station in Owen County, had applied in 2018 to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management for a license to operate a solid waste transfer station on State Road 43.

The trash company was refused by the BZA and commissioners a document required by IDEM indicating that no rezoning or variance would be necessary for Monster Trash’s operation of a waste transfer station on the property. When the Morgan Circuit Court entered declaratory judgment in favor of the county, the COA disagreed and reversed.

The County now seeks rehearing, arguing that Monster Trash’s proposed operation of a solid waste transfer station is not a permitted activity in a heavy industrial zone, and we grant rehearing for the purpose of clarifying our conclusion that it is. Although we concluded in our original opinion that waste transfer stations are not absolutely prohibited by the Ordinance if they are unlicensed, there is also the question of whether they are permitted in a heavy industrial zone, which is where Monster Trash seeks to operate such a facility,” Chief Judge Cale Bradford wrote for the appellate court.

“The County essentially argues that because ‘operating a waste transfer station’ is not listed in Section 3.3, it is not a permitted use. For its part, Monster Trash argues that the activities of a waste transfer station are, in fact permitted by Section 3.3(i), which lists ‘reduction […] of trash [or] garbage’ as a permitted use. We agree with Monster Trash,” Bradford wrote in the opinion on rehearing.

“A reasonable and fair description of a waste transfer station, then, is that it is a facility in which waste is drawn together (from collection vehicles to transport vehicles), caused to converge (again, from collection vehicles to transport vehicles), or diminished in extent (collecting waste from homes and businesses and concentrating it at the facility), activities that all fit squarely within the Webster’s definition of ‘reduce,’ one of the uses listed in Section 3.3(i) of the Ordinance,” the appellate court wrote.

“So, while a solid waste transfer station may not be in the business of reducing waste by compaction or incineration, we conclude that its activities nonetheless qualify as permitted uses in a heavy industrial zone pursuant to the plain language of the Ordinance.”

Coming to that conclusion, the appellate court therefore let its original disposition stand in the case of Monster Trash, Inc. v. Owen County Council, Owen County Commissioners, and Owen County Board of Zoning Appeals, 20A-PL-918. 

“To repeat that disposition, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand with instructions to, within thirty days of the certification of this opinion on rehearing, order the BZA to issue a document to IDEM and/or Monster Trash confirming that zoning requirements are not required for the location of a solid waste transfer station on the Property,” it concluded.

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