Appeals court orders suit dismissed in Waco landfill case

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WACO, Texas (KWTX) A state appeals court Thursday ordered a trial court to dismiss a lawsuit filed over Waco’s Highway 84 landfill.

Waco's Highway 84 landfill. (Photo by Erin Zeller/file)

The Waco-based 10th Court of Appeals ordered the trial court to dismiss Citizens To Save Lake Waco's suit against the city because the underlying claims raised were not "ripe," meaning at the time the suit was filed, there was no evidence on record that the city had, or would expand the landfill in the near future.

"At most, Lake Waco has a potential injury, not a concrete injury," the order says.

"Thus, on the record before us, neither Lake Waco nor the city can demonstrate a reasonable likelihood that the claims 'will soon ripen.'"

Leaders of Citizens Against the Hwy 84 Landfill, a group supporting Citizens To Save Lake Waco, said although the court didn't rule in favor of the Lake Waco group, they were "very pleased" the court didn't rule in favor of the city, either.

"The decision of the court was that the case was not 'ripe' simply because the City of Waco has not yet filed a permit for the new Highway 84 Landfill with TCEQ," said Bradford Holland.

"We are further pleased with the thinking of the court, which seemed eager to assert that the City does not have sovereign immunity in the case, should they proceed with the permitting process."

"Last, because it seems the City of Waco has already moved on and filed a permit for the new landfill in another location, we believe this should lay to rest the idea that the City of Waco will ever permit a new landfill along the Highway 84 corridor," he said.

City of Waco Attorney Jennifer Richie said the court ordered dismissal of the plaintiff's lawsuit because the case was premature.

"The court did not rule on the merits of the case or on the city’s plea to the jurisdiction," said Richie. "The Court merely ruled on ripeness, meaning that the court does not believe that the case is ready to be heard."

"While the city respects the court's decision, the city has an obligation to provide a new landfill before the current landfill reaches capacity and will continue to explore the best options to fulfill this responsibly," she said.

Following heavy backlash from the proposed Highway 84 landfill, the city started exploring other options, and is currently pursuing a landfill near Axtell.

Last July, the Waco City Council approved the $1.8 million purchase of a 502-acre tract of land near the intersection of State Highway 31 and T.K. Parkway and also approved a resolution authorizing the city to apply for a TCEQ permit for a landfill on the site.

Then last September, the council approved a $3.2 million purchase of an additional 770 acres adjacent to the site south of State Highway 31 in Hill and Limestone counties, and said only about 20 percent would be used for a landfill.

In response to concerns from Axtell area residents, that November the council authorized a third purchase of 20 acres of land adjacent to the potential landfill site to serve as a buffer from noise from traffic and the possible odor from trash.

Still, a group of Axtell community members has hired an Austin law firm to fight Waco's purchase of the site.

The Waco landfill serves eleven counties; Waco residents and businesses account for more than 60 percent of trash delivered.