“For those who are fortunate enough to live in another part of town, it’s the All-American City. For us, it’s stinkin’ Lincoln,” said a man who lived near a proposed landfill site during a July 1986 public hearing.

Three decades ago when the city was trying to figure out where to put a new landfill, hundreds of people showed up at public hearings.

It was NIMBY (not in my backyard) at work. No one wanted the landfill near them.

Not the mayor at the time.

Mayor Roland Luedtke and his wife owned 40 acres of farmland near one of six proposed landfill sites. The mayor initially opposed that site, then filed a formal conflict of interest statement and said he would not take part in the selection process.

Not the airport. 

The Lincoln Airport Authority threatened legal action if the city selected a site near the airport at Northwest 70th and Superior streets. A landfill would create a larger bird population, endangering arriving and departing aircraft, the authority said.

The FAA, in a letter to city officials, said the city could be held liable for aircraft accidents caused by bird strikes.

After a year of public dissension, the site near the mayor's property was selected and is now the Lincoln landfill.

Ann Bleed, who was part of three different committees involved in developing the Bluff Road landfill in northeast Lincoln, remembers meetings during the site selection process with 600 people in a room and sheriff’s deputies with guns standing against the back wall.

There were six potential sites and contentious opposition to each one.

“There was so much opposition; it was incredible,” said Bleed, a former university adjunct professor and former head of the state Water Resources Department.

One of those committees involved with developing the landfill recommended the city buy twice as much land as it needed at the time, so it would not have to go through the same contentious, NIMBY-fraught selection process for a very long time.

The wisdom of that decision can be seen in the lack of interest in the city’s announcement that it is seeking a state permit to open the east half of the Bluff Road site.

City staff expect few opponents, if any, will attend the Dec. 4 public hearing before the City Council on the proposal to expand into the other half of the city-owned landfill, 6001 Bluff Road, near Interstate 80 and North U.S. 77.

“Most people are surprised that we even have to go through this process,” said Donna Garden, assistant director of the Department of Public Works and Utilities.

The city has notified the owners of the 41 properties within 1,000 feet of the site, which includes 13 properties owned by the city, two owned by Lincoln Electric System and two by the state Game and Parks Commission.

Obtaining siting approval will also serve as notice to potential developers, who "will not be able to claim they were unaware of the intended use," according to a document related to the permit request. 

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The goal is to discourage future urban acreage developments in the area around the Bluff Road landfill, according to that document.  

The permit will allow development of a landfill or solid waste processing center, which includes composting, material recovery, a recycling center or whatever new technology may come along, Garden said.

This gives the city flexibility and allows the city to do more than one thing on the site, she said. 

The city doesn’t expect the current landfill to be full for another 10 to 15 years, but a permit application — especially a contested one — can take many years.

The city just wants to make certain the site is approved and available for expansion, she said.

A current report says the landfill will not be full until 2032, but city staff have said they believe an increase in landfill use means it could be full by 2028.

When the Bluff Road landfill opened in 1988 it was expected to last 25 to 30 years.

Estimates put the cost of closing and monitoring the current landfill operation at $22.5 million and opening a new site at $10 million.

The department has started a reserve fund to save for these costs, and put in about $600,000 this year, Garden said.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7250 or nhicks@journalstar.com

On Twitter @LJSNancyHicks.

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Reporter

Nancy Hicks reports on Lincoln city government, but she’s been following the leaders of local and state government for more than 40 years.

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