Falls Supervisors: Any Action on Elcon Proposal Leaves Township Open to Lawsuit
The Falls Township Board of Supervisors is doing its due diligence in not passing a resolution in favor or against a controversial hazardous waste treatment facility. Approving a resolution before reviewing plans for the Elcon waste treatment facility could show discriminatory action on the part of local elected officials, leaving the township open to litigation and ultimately putting the decision in the hands of a court instead of the governing body, whose members all live in and raise families in Falls Township.
That was the message that Falls Township Board of Supervisors Chairman Bob Harvie shared with a handful of residents who called on the board to pass a resolution against the proposed Elcon facility.
“If they do come before us … and they are voted down by this board, they could sue and claim that they have been discriminated against,” Harvie said. “Whatever local control the people have asked us to exercise is gone.”
During public meetings, opponents have been asking the Falls Supervisors to reject the Elcon application. But, as Harvie pointed out, nothing is before the board at the moment. In fact, he said it could be a year until the application makes its way to the Falls Township Board of Supervisors.
Enacting a resolution opposing a project before an applicant has an opportunity to present it would be “premature” and “ill advised,” according to township attorney, Mike Clarke. Doing so “could expose the township to significant liability.”
Before the proposal makes its way to Falls officials for review, Elcon will convene a meeting in the ballroom of the Sheraton Bucks County Hotel, 400 Oxford Valley Road in Langhorne on Feb. 23. The public meeting is part of its application to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. From there, DEP will undertake a review of the project, ultimately determining next steps.
By comparison, DEP began the review and permitting process in 2006 for a Waste Management landfill in Falls Township that Harvie said is expected to open later this year.
“That’s a pretty normal process for DEP to go through,” Harvie said.
If Elcon makes it through DEP’s scrutiny, Falls officials would have a minimum of four public meetings – two planning commission meetings, as well as two Board of Supervisors meetings, before anything could be finalized. The local review process would also include review by township officials, including the fire marshal and engineer.
“This is not a simple process by any stretch of the imagination,” Harvie said. “It’s something we are watching very intently. We have faith in the DEP review process.”