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The Clarence Planning Board is considering provisional approval of a controversial composting facility in southeastern Clarence on the condition that it not increase truck traffic.

The site on Jones Road, east of Ransom Road, currently has a brush-chipping operation serving Clarence, Amherst and Newstead. A private contractor wishes to install a 10-acre composting facility capable of handling 16 percent of the yard and garden waste generated in Erie and Niagara counties.

Nearly 100 Clarence residents turned out Wednesday evening to protest the plan. They said truck traffic would create a nuisance and traffic hazards on the narrow Jones and Ransom roads, and rotting organic materials could pollute the old sand and gravel pit and an aquifer under it.

Jerome Singer, Planning Board chairman, told the crowd that the consensus of the board is to bow to residents' wishes but to allow the much-needed facility to start on a one-year trial basis.

"The Town of Clarence is not trying to sell this project to anyone," Singer said. "But we do need it. There is no 'right' spot for it. We will try to minimize its effect."

If environmental studies find the composter to be safe, he said, the board would be inclined to recommend that the Town Board approve it, provided it not generate more truck traffic than the present brush-chipping operation.

J&I Disposal Inc. of Akron already leases part of the land for its brush-chipping service. An application to the state Department of Environmental Conservation to operate the composter lists the owner as Regent Sand and Gravel Corp. and the operator as Design, Excavation and Construction Inc., whose address and phone number are the same as for J&I Disposal.

Regent has projected daily visits by 16 trucks, entering from Jones Road and exiting on Ransom. But many residents said they suspected this would increase to 100 round-trip truck visits a day, based on the composter's capacity of 100 tons of waste a day.

Norma Capan of 4070 Ransom Road, near Jones, told the board her husband, Lloyd, has counted 460 vehicles passing their house from 2 to 4 p.m. She said the area already has too much traffic. "It seems to me that we're being used as an armpit for the Town of Clarence -- everything goes to the south part of the town," she said. "What about some of it going to the north?"

Anne Georger-Harris of Westerwald Road, a mile away, predicted 200 trucks would pass her house each day and suggested that the board "look at the broad, overall picture of the town and fine a site more feasible in terms of truck traffic."

Singer said the proposal is being reviewed by all affected agencies, and he read letters from county and state environmental officials.

Erie County officials expressed concern that water in the aquifer could be contaminated by seepage from the composter, including pesticides from lawn clippings and leaves. They also asked about the odor and said the site is in "an archaeologically sensitive" area.

State officials said there are at least two gas wells nearby and safety requirements call for a distance of at least 150 feet from this type of operation. Singer said these areas of concern are not fatal to the project and could be addressed by the town.

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