(Updated 9:29 p.m.)With overwhelming support, the House passed an emergency certified bill Thursday night giving towns the ability to zone and regulate solid waste facilities.
The bill, which passed 120-8, has been closely tied to a facility in Milford that has been looking to expand over the objections of the town.
Last year, the New Haven Register reported Milford’s attempt to stop the expansion of the facility owned by Recycling Inc. Those efforts included hiring lawyer David Slossberg, husband of Milford Sen. Gayle Slossberg. But a judge ultimately sided with the facility’s owners.
Rep. Richard Roy, D-Milford, said the bill will not hinder the expansion of the facility, which the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has already tentatively approved.
Slossberg said the reason the town was unable to win the court case was because of a mistake the General Assembly made in 2006, accidentally removing town oversight from statute. Rep. Linda Schofield, D-Simsbury, said it was her understanding that the language was accidentally dropped by a legislative staffer and wasn’t a decision made by lawmakers.
The bill, which was fast-tracked to the floor of the House for a vote Thursday aims to correct that mistake, Slossberg said.
Roy said, if passed, the bill would give the city authority to regulate things like dust and traffic around the facility.
But Darlene Chapdelaine, who owns the property and facility in Milford, said the language in the 2006 law was no mistake. Lawmakers altered statutes to give municipalities control over landfills moving into their towns but wanted recycling centers to be under the Department of Environmental Protection’s authority, she said.
“[Slossberg’s] making it look like a defect or typographical error but they did it intentionally,” she said.
Chapdelaine said the state wanted control over solid waste facility permits for fear that no town would want to allow a facility to be built there. She said she believes the bill was “e-certed” so it could be passed before her permit in Milford is finalized by DEEP.
“Quite frankly Gayle Slossberg is going to clean up her husband’s mess,” she said.
Slossberg said that statement was entirely inaccurate given the fact that her husband’s law firm wasn’t even brought on board until three weeks after the case was lost. Slossberg’s husband works for Hurwitz, Sagarin, Slossberg, and Knuff. The firm was hired 20 days after the court decided the case.
Chapdelaine questioned why the city did not appeal the court decision in her favor and suggested it was because Slossberg was planning on dealing with the issue in a legislative fashion.
She said she would have testified at a public hearing if the bill moved through the traditional committee process, but will travel to the Capitol next Wednesday for the Senate debate on the bill.
“I will be there for my three minutes to tell them you can’t, as a legislative branch of government, act as the Judicial Branch,” she said.
Chapdelaine contacted Sen. Tony Guglielmo, R-Stafford. Reached by phone, Guglielmo said he did not believe the 2006 legislation was a mistake but noted that could be determined by looking back through transcripts of bill’s hearings and debates. The problem is that takes time.
“If Sen. Slossberg is correct that’s fine but we need a little time to take a look at it. The judge obviously felt the law was doing what it was intended to,” he said.
During the House debate, Rep. Sean Williams, R- Watertown, questioned Roy on the necessity of fast tracking the bill without a public debate.
“If as you said earlier, the passage of this bill will have no bearing on the project in the city of Milford, then what makes this an emergency?” he asked.
“The residents of Milford are looking for some real comfort and we’re also trying to protect all communities because if we don’t do this, every community that has a facility will certainly be at risk of having an expansion of that facility and they will not have any say in what happens,” Roy answered.
After the bill passed, Williams said that while he doesn’t doubt Roy’s sincerity, he thinks the town of Milford will use the law to fight the expansion.
“I think anyone who thinks this is not going to be used to thwart this project, they’re crazy,” he said.
Williams said the legislature sends the wrong message to businesses when it passes laws encouraging them to expand and then reacts to something like the situation in Milford and “yank the carpet out from under them.”
He also said Slossberg’s involvement “smelled,” given her husband’s role in the case.
“Was anything illegal done here? Probably not. But you certainly have to question the motive,” he said.
The bill is expected to be raised in the Senate on Wednesday, Feb. 29.