Exurban facing lawsuit over planned e-waste recycling facility

IL file photo

United Kingdom-based Exurban is reaffirming its plans to build a multimillion-dollar e-waste recycling facility in Fort Wayne and create up to 200 jobs. That’s in response to a lawsuit filed this month seeking to overturn the Fort Wayne Plan Commission’s approval of the project.

Exurban, through its subsidiary Exurban USA, in May detailed plans for the facility, which it said would be the world’s first zero-waste smelter refinery, capable of extracting valuable metals such as copper, gold and silver from discarded electronics, including mobile phones, computers and televisions.

The company initially said it would invest $340 million in the project, but on Tuesday said that investment is now estimated to be between $350 million and $400 million.

The lawsuit was filed in Allen Superior Court by the Bulmahn family, which owns a farm near the site of the proposed facility. It lists Exurban USA, Exurban Indiana, the Fort Wayne Plan Commission and the Fort Wayne Department of Redevelopment as respondents.

The family says the facility does not meet the definition of a “recycling processing facility” as outlined in the Fort Wayne Zoning Ordinance (FWZO).

“In reality, the proposed ‘recycling facility’ is an electronic waste processing/smelter/refinery facility which is not a permitted use” in the zoning district in which the land sits, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit claims Exurban intentionally left out language from the FWZO that specifies what would be permitted as a recycling facility, namely the clause that says, “A recycling facility that receives distinct and recognizable solid waste items such as newspapers, magazines, books, and other paper products, glass, metal cans, and other similar products are recycled, reprocessed, and treated in order to return those products to a condition where they may again be used in new products.”

Additionally, the lawsuit alleges the Fort Wayne Plan Commission did not provide the public an opportunity to review and address additional documentation provided by Exurban before it approved the project at its Oct. 17 business meeting.

The petitioners add that if the facility were allowed to be built, the value of the family’s farm property would be reduced by 30%.

The lawsuit asks the court to issue an order “compelling the Plan Commission to nullify and set aside its prior approval.”

In a statement released Tuesday, Exurban said it plans to move forward with building the facility on the 77-acre property, with the goal of being operational in the first quarter of 2025.

The company said the lawsuit is “without merit and efforts are under way to determine if a reasonable resolution can be reached in a timely manner.”

“We appreciate that new solutions to difficult problems cause folks to ask questions, and to seek a better understanding of our process and we welcome that,” Exurban Indiana co-founder Wes Adams said. “In the coming months we will do more to familiarize the community with how we have designed a recycling process that allows us to recover critical electronic metals without generating any waste, while providing high paying jobs and tax revenue. Exurban is committed to being a good neighbor and (corporate) citizen of Northeast Indiana, and we look forward to being a part of your community.”

The full lawsuit is available online.

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