Lower Windsor Twp. nixes landfill expansion, prepares for tax hike

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch

The Lower Windsor Township supervisors have scuttled negotiations with the owner of Modern Landfill over an expansion of the waste disposal facility, a move that could ultimately shutter the landfill and cost the municipality a significant portion of its annual revenue. 

In December, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to end negotiations with Republic Services following significant pushback from neighboring property owners. The landfill will close within five years without an expansion, company officials say, which could result in significant tax hikes, as township officials grapple with the potential loss of about $1.2 million in annual revenue.

Supervisor Donald Schock said he was concerned about the size of the landfill's footprint in the township, and Supervisor George Yakubowski said it was the board's responsibility to be good stewards of the land and that the landfill would do more harm than good, according to the minutes of the Dec. 10 board meeting.

But Republic hasn't given up, and the company is exploring all options, including legal recourse, officials said.

Tim O'Donnell, general manager of Modern Landfill, said Monday in a written statement that his company had been working in good faith with the township for the past two years to reach an agreement, and that he was "surprised and disappointed" by the board's decision.

"Modern Landfill has enabled progress and development in this region for nearly 50 years, including being a reliable revenue source for the township and an asset to all of York County," O'Donnell said. "We continue to believe that the safe, responsible development of this project will enable prosperity and environmental stewardship for generations to come."

Tim O'Donnell, general manager for Republic Services Modern Landfill, answers questions from Lower Windsor Township residents at a special meeting Tuesday, Jan. 21. About 200 people attended.

Most of Modern Landfill, owned by Arizona-based Republic Services, is in Windsor Township, but a small portion sits in Lower Windsor Township, and Republic has a host agreement with Lower Windsor Township that provides the township with about $1.2 million each year in fees and services as long as the landfill is operational.

Lower Windsor Township's 2021 budget was $3.6 million. 

The plan: Republic has been planning a 122-acre eastward expansion into Lower Windsor Township that would increase the size of the landfill's disposal area by about 50%.

Under the proposed new host agreement for the expansion, Republic offered to increase its payments and services to the township to a value of about $2.1 million each year.

Without the expansion, it will only be about five years before the township loses the annual tipping fee revenue because the landfill will cease operations when it runs out of space, O'Donnell said.

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For the past year, several residents who live near the landfill have attended township board meetings and asked the supervisors to reject the expansion.

The township conducted a survey and sent questionnaires to every household in the municipality, which totaled more than 3,000, township officials said.

More than 1,000 people responded to the survey, which included questions about how long the respondents had lived in the township, whether they worried the landfill expansion would impact their property values and whether they would be willing to pay more property taxes in lieu of the lost tipping fee revenue from the landfill.

There were 10 questions total, and the last question asked simply whether residents supported or opposed the expansion.

There were 517 responses in favor of the expansion and 575 against it.

Republic Services Modern Landfill in Lower Windsor Township, Thursday, September 17, 2020.
John A. Pavoncello photo

Without the tipping fee revenue from the landfill, township officials have said, the township would need to increase taxes to make up for the loss.

Details about possible changes to the millage rate won't be available until the township develops its 2022 budget later this year.

Supervisors Schock and Yakubowski and board Chair Barry Miller could not be reached Tuesday for additional comment. 

But in the survey sent to residents, the township did include calculations showing that, from 2017 to 2020, Lower Windsor Township property owners would have needed to pay between 2 and 2.5 additional mills to match the tipping fee revenue received from Republic during those years, which would've amounted to overall millage rates of 3.05 mills to 3.55 mills.

Those rates are triple the township's current tax rate of 1.05 mills.

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