Park-area residents, ball league tell council Kirkwood composting idea stinks

by GEOFF FOX

During last month’s town meeting, council members heard a proposal about using town-owned property at the entrance to Kirkwood Park for public composting.

While no decision was made about the proposal, between meetings, residents wrote letters to The Hancock News, researched, signed letters and petitions, and questioned town officials about the composting location.

Before the August 12 meeting started, Councilman Roland Lanehart, Jr., placed a letter from the Hancock Little League at the tables where his fellow councilmen and mayor would be seated. He also provided the letter to The Hancock News.

Lanehart, during the July town meeting, had raised concerns about having the compost site at the Kirkwood house location.

In the letter dated August 6, Hancock Little League officials said the league is concerned about the potential damages and dangers of a compost facility located near the entrance of the park.

There has been proof and evidence of wildlife on the ball fields with snakes and snapping turtles having to be removed from the fields.

“There have been multiple times where we have seen bear and coyote tracks on our actual fields,” the league said in the letter.

There have been other times where the dumpster had been opened, with trash and disposed food littering the lower parking lot.

“We respectfully ask that you carefully consider the consequences of such a facility, and vote against the construction and/or idea of modifying an existing structure,” the letter read.

Hancock Little League said there have been other travel teams come to the park and tell them how beautiful the park is, and that it’s the best in Washington County.

Over the past two to three years, town crews, inmate crew, and Hancock Little League have worked to remove excessive junk and trash to maintain the presentation of the park.

“It would be a shame to ruin it with a ‘Compost Facility,’” the letter said.

During citizens’ comments, Larry Rollins spoke about the way the area of the house had been zoned according to Washington County.

Quoting the town’s application and approval for being a sustainable community, Rollins told town officials it states all sustainable communities must be located entirely within a priority funding area to be included.

The application and approval also state the boundaries include the downtown commercial area, which is zoned as town center and general commercial. Recreation areas would include Widmeyer and Kirkwood Parks.

Rollins said the location of the house is outside the town limits or recreation area as presented.

“While it may be owned by the Town of Hancock, the parcel, since it is located in Washington County, it’s governed by the Washington County Zoning Ordinances,” he said.

Rollins said he had spent “many, many years” in the Hancock area enforcing said ordinances.

The area where the house is considered a buffer zone, which is an environmental conservation use area.

Using the house’s backyard for composting would not fall under that particular use.

“It’s not a special exception, it’s just not permitted even with the Board of Appeals hearing it,” Rollins said.

On three occasions within the last few weeks, Rollins checked with the county’s Director of Zoning to be sure he was correct.

“He confirmed the same fact,” he said.

Karen Conley also spoke against the composting site.

She, along with Rollins, had written letters against the site.

Conley brought 208 signatures on a petition from people in the area, such as Little League and people who come to the park for concerts and movies, who don’t want the compost site at Kirkwood. She added her father lives next door to the park.

Mayor Ralph Salvagno said said he appreciated the information Rollins brought to the meeting, which he said the town didn’t know.

The proposal, the mayor said, was in a sense to send a message to people the town was concerned about conservation and they were doing the right thing.

He also noted the concerns over the last month about the compost site as well.

Salvagno said Lanehart had mentioned doing something out by the landfill, which would be a “good idea” and “realistically” a better idea

Salvagno said for the time being, officials are going to move away from the idea of doing the composting at Kirkwood Park. He said he hoped the composting idea wasn’t abandoned totally.

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