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News Briefs 5.28.03

Not dumped on yet

After years of uproar within the community, the Albion (Orleans County) town board last week voted unanimously against a Waste Management Inc. dump proposal. The company had been wanting to re-open and expand an existing dump that lies dormant. The new operation, picturesquely dubbed the "Towpath Landfill," would sit practically beside the Erie Canal. To lubricate the deal, Waste Management had offered a "minimum annual fee of $500,000" to the town, according to the Buffalo News.

            But the deal was off when the town board wouldn't go along. Now, says the News, the trustee for the landfill, Craig A. Slater, has promised to sue to overturn the town board's decision. So it may be a long time till this one is over.

            A citizens group called Stop Polluting Orleans County has been fighting the proposal from the beginning. "It's been a long haul," says SPOC leader Pat Ward. (Indeed, long-haul garbage trucks would throng Orleans County roads if the deal goes through eventually.) "Finally we have a town board that's very gutsy... I commend them."

            Ward doesn't entirely blame Slater for trying to open a profit stream. "That's what he has to do, it's his job," she says. But she's very concerned about the town's future and its linkage to Erie Canal development. "The town is just beginning to revive itself" and its natural canalside attraction, she says. It's easy to imagine a lofty landfill would not help.

A natural for lawns

On May 22, the Toronto City Council voted 26-16 for a by-law (ordinance) that will limit the use of pesticides and herbicides on residential lawns, says a report in the Globe and Mail. The measure, to be phased in over three years, will allow exceptions only for homeowners whose lawns have a "serious infestation problem."

            Even then, says the paper, the exception will have to be okayed by a committee of environmentalists, lawn-care industry reps, and city employees. Violators will get warnings initially, then be subject to fines.

            Around 45 Canadian cities have passed limitations of some kind, says the paper.

            Contrast this with what's happening in Monroe County, where the county legislature majority recently buried a proposal to enact a local "Neighbor Notification" ordinance pursuant to state law. By its own rules, the Lej will probably not be able even to take up the question for another two years plus.

            Toronto's action sets a good example for this side of Lake Ontario, say health and environmental activists like Holly Anderson, director of the Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester. "Toronto is the largest city to adopt such a by-law," says Anderson. "It's way beyond 48-hour [neighbor] notification."

            Anderson hopes action will follow here. "The drums are beating, believe me," she says.

Diaz dozes

Diaz Chemical Corporation, the Holley-based company whose air emissions of solvents and other chemicals caused some neighboring residents to leave their homes in fear, has shut down operations. "They have ceased manufacturing chemicals because they have to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency order to cease or install redundant safety equipment," a Diaz attorney told the Democrat and Chronicle.

            Holley activist and Diaz neighbor Andrew Saul greeted the news with a parable about a dragon going to sleep. "Once upon a time there was a small village with a large problem," the story begins. First there was the beast's breath. "And the dragon stunk, too," writes Saul.

            Daniel Schiavone, the mayor of Holley, told the D&C there's still a lot to keep an eye on: "groundwater contamination," for one thing. And the village will need all the help it can get from state environmental officials, he said.

            Saul put it this way: "When a dragon dies, you can't just leave it where it is."

Shipping out?

Shipping Dock Theatre, the local theater company known for producing contemporary plays with topical, often controversial, subject matter, will likely be looking for a new venue even before its current season is over. A new sports bar, Chasers, opened this month directly above Shipping Dock's subterranean theater on St. Paul Street, and the near-constant creaking of the floor makes the space highly unsuitable for live drama.

            This sounds like the all-too-familiar story in which the dastardly landlord sabotages the noble efforts of a small troupe of struggling artists. But Bud DeWolff, co-owner of St. Paul Place, doesn't fit the part.

            For one thing, DeWolff expresses genuine concern for the theater company's situation. He has nothing but praise for Shipping Dock, calling them "extremely good tenants," and he pledges to do all he can to find them another venue, including making personal calls to fellow building owners on their behalf.

            DeWolff says Shipping Dock moved into the space, nearly two-and-a-half years ago, with the understanding that it'd only need the venue for a year, at which point they'd find a permanent home. Since then, DeWolff says he's allowed the company to stay on a month-to-month basis, in part because he says he and his partner would be compelled to ask for four-times as much rent per square foot if they inked a formal lease agreement.

            DeWolff says he's refused several potential tenants interested in the street-level space Chasers now occupies, because those tenants wanted to host live music, which DeWolff feared would be too loud for the theater. When he agreed to rent it to Chasers, he says he stipulated that the bar's owners take extra measures, at their expense, to soundproof the floor, which he says they have done.

            Indeed, during Chasers' May 21 grand opening, you could hear neither the music booming from the sound system nor the lively conversations of scores of patrons above the theater's space. However, the creaking of feet and shuffling chairs could be heard often and loudly enough to be distracting. DeWolff acknowledges this problem, though he suggests it could be mitigated somewhat if the company scheduled its plays early in the evening, before the bar really gets crowded.

            James Piampiano, a Shipping Dock board member and the company's legal counsel, says the board plans to discuss the situation and consider its options during a May 27 meeting. The company had planned to produce one more play at the space before its current season ended, but it's unclear now whether that will happen. Piampiano also says the company is continuing to search for a permanent venue. The space at St. Paul Place "has always been a transitionary home," Piampiano says.