FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – A family claims an e-waste smelting plant proposed for the city’s southeast side was improperly given the go-ahead by the Fort Wayne Plan Commission and will harm a 150-year-old nearby farm.
The family – David Bulmahn, Ronald Bulmahn and Janet Bulmahn – filed a challenge in Allen Superior Court last week to the proposed 140-foot-high recycling plant planned by the United Kingdom-based company Exurban at Adams Center and Paulding roads.
They are essentially calling for a judicial review and believe the approval of the facility needs to be reversed.
Exurban previously promised to create roughly 200 jobs paying between $50,000 and $70,000 a year with the $300 million facility on 76-acres of Adams Township Industrial Park property on the northeast corner of Paulding and Adams Center roads.
The Bulmahn’s farm sits across Paulding Road from the proposed plant, and the family claims it will reduce the value of the farm – which the family has used for 150 years – by at least 30 percent, according to court documents.
At the heart of the Bulmahn’s challenge is what exactly constitutes a “recycling plant” deemed by the city’s zoning laws.
In the challenge – which also names the Fort Wayne Plan Commission and the City of Fort Wayne Department of Redevelopment as well as Exurban – the Bulmahns claim the smelting plant does not meet the city’s own code for a recycling center in the designated area where it is supposed to be built.
An attorney representing the Bulmahns wrote in court documents that, according to city code, recyclable materials for a recycling center in that area include things like newspapers, magazines and books.
This, the family’s attorney argues in court documents, does not include metals and materials included in items like cell phones or computers or other industrial products.
In the challenge, the attorney writes:
“Mixed Waste Electrical Equipment, Auto Industry waste, General scrap, Industrial waste, and Incinerator Bottom Ash are not recyclable materials that are similar in nature to newspapers, magazines, books, other paper products, glass, and metal cans, and, as set forth below, only items similar to these can be recycled in a permitted ‘Recycling Processing Facility'” in the properly zoned area under the Fort Wayne Board of Zoning Appeals.
In application documents, officials with Exurban wrote that the company plans to take in up to 45,000 metric tons of electronics waste every year. The facility on the southeast side of town is labeled in those documents as a “smelter” and as a “metals refinery.”
The Buhlmans call for an official judicial review accused Exurban of misleading the plan commission in part as to what the company had in store for the facility and that the plan commission erroneously or unlawfully granted approval for the facility back in October, according to court documents.
The attorney for the Buhlmans also accused the plan commission of refusing to take public comments about the proposed facility during a meeting this past August, writing in court documents that “the Plan Commission’s distaste for public input cost it an opportunity to make a correct decision and, ultimately, has forced the Petitioners into the unenviable position of having to bring the instant action.”
A hearing into the matter is scheduled for Jan. 11, and it’s not clear when construction might start on the facility.