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Proposed composting business wants warmer welcome in Gary

Updated: January 3, 2013 6:26AM



GARY — A manager with a recycling company proposing the Greenland Farms and Compost Supply on the city’s east side advises it might forgo a site in Gary altogether if the Common Council doesn’t grant its requested land-use variance.

Tom Volini of Forest View, Ill.-based Heartland Recycling LLC said during a city planning meeting last week his company once before tried to establish a composting site in the city under Mayor Rudy Clay’s administration but was rejected.

“We haven’t disregarded the city’s wishes and want it to succeed,” Volini said. “But if the city wants us to go somewhere else, that’s strike 2.”

Lake County Councilman Jerome Prince, who attended the planning meeting with Lake County Parks and Recreation Executive Director Robert Nickovich, said the proposed site — the Ewen Farm at 3400 Central Ave. — is in an area with only one road that leads to Three Rivers Park and Bellaboos. The truck traffic on Central would be greatly increased, Prince said, plus the material transported by those trucks is difficult to contain.

“Lake County made the $1 million acquisition and spent $7 million to rehab (Three Rivers and Bellaboos),” Prince said.

Nickovich added that 75,000 people visited Bellaboos in 2011 and the park is poised to surpass that number in 2012.

“I find it hard to believe that there’s not another parcel already zoned for (composting),” Nickovich said. “We’ve wanted (the 37-acre parcel at Central Avenue and Colorado Street), but the county hasn’t gotten it.

Heartland previously proposed the composting business for a site just south of Interstate 90 near some horse farms, Volini said.

The Rev. Dwight Gardner, president of the Gary Park Board, called Three Rivers Park one of the city’s “crown jewels” and that putting in a compost site doesn’t fit with the area. Volini said Heartland has a composting site in at least one residential area with no ill effects.

“If managed properly, there isn’t a smell,” Volini said.

Heartland has an option to purchase the property, contingent on obtaining the land-use variance.

On its permit application to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, Heartland said the site would receive yard waste. It said vehicles would enter and exit from Central Avenue using an existing entrance.

Grinding and screening equipment required by the operation would be placed on the existing asphalt parking area.

A home and outbuildings would also remain and will be used for offices and equipment storage.

Windrow composting, a common farming method, would produce the final product. It consists of piling organic matter in long rows that are turned regularly to improve oxygen content and remove moisture. The finished compost product would be similar to peat moss.

Windrows would run from west to east to follow the contours of the site, and a smaller area would have graded swales to convey runoff to a 60-by-60-foot holding pond from which runoff would be drawn to irrigate the compost.

Other land would be used for vegetable and row crop farming.

The finished compost would be sold wholesale to area nurseries and landscape contractors and to Gary, Lake Station and other Lake County municipalities for urban beautification, according to the permit application.



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