NWI infatuation with solid waste – don’t look at the community

Last week the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM)   held a public meeting  May 10  regarding a solid waste processing facility  by Maya Energies, The purpose of the meeting was to see the latest version of the project  (the permit several times  and  for IDEM  to hear from the community on the permit.

Maya is owned by Jimmy Ventura and represented by  MCR Consulting Firm ( ownersMatt and Mara Reardon.) On May 10th,   Ventura and Reardon were inside the hall. The IDEM contingent waited outside with a growing community of over 100.  Ventura refused to allow the public or even IDEM – who were accompanied by his lawyer-inside.  ( 2nd photo, far right)

A few minutes after 6PM it was announced”there would be no meeting.”    Maya’s lawyer,  a security guard   and later Ventura stated it was USW decision. This doesn’t explain  Ventura not letting his own lawyer and IDEM in

Threatened with arrest, Steel City Academy  offered to host a meeting for the public and IDEM agreed to hear  comments. By 6:10  staff ,students , IDEM and community were on their way. Mayor Karen Freeman Wilson arrived and when told IDEM was on the way to the school, she too  headed to Steel City. Ventura  remained at McBride Hall  for more than 45 minutes as individuals arrived to talk with him

Before the night was over the police were called again when the president of the  City of Gary ‘s Planning Committee  interrupted IDEM and  insulted the staff and families in  their school . (no word from Council President Ron Brewer)

Somehow this has unraveled to  discussion on charter schools vs, public schools,   gun laws,  landfills, and of course  jobs. No, this is Know your solid waste facilities.

In the Spring of 2016, both Steel City Academy and Maya Energy applied for a zoning variance from the City of Gary,

Steel City Academy needed the variance as they were to expand their building at 2650 West 35th Avenue . Initially denied by the Planning Committee in March,  the next step was to appeal,. Concerns were discussed: why didn’t Steel City Academy use a closed school building,  what about  the shooting range  near the school.  The building was home to ARC of Indiana,  a residential facility for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The Gary  shooting range- over half a mile away were in order,. The Common Council approved Steel City Academy in June 2016. School has been open since August 2016.

Maya Energy applied for a zoning variance for 3600 Chase Street., to open a recycle facility for shredded paper. MCR Consulting and Maya initially submitted no project plans, no drafts, no specifics and  were approved by Gary ‘s Zoning Commission.  In May the  Common Council tabled a decision , rather than deny. They could find little information on Maya, according to the Council,  Councilman Herb Smith of Planning Commission directly asked about clients and job potential – at that time Maya responded they had no clients, and would not submit a plan until approved. After subsequent information and discussion, CommonCouncil approved re-zoning for Maya ‘s recycle facility in June 2016.

Special Zoning Approvals require continual progress toward completion. If after 2 years there is not continual progress on the project approved, the rezoning ends,. In May of 2017, The City of Gary notified Maya after a year of inactivity.

In April of 2017 Maya Energy submitted a permit to the IDEM to operate a solid waste processing facility at 2727 West 35th Avenue. Different location and different project.

Maya Energy   did not own the property on their initial request for zoning- the Little Calumet River Basin did . A year later Maya still   had no legal authority over the new address. Maya offered  a tentative MOU  for a lease  dated  November 10, 2015  and signed by Matt Reardon as Director of Government Affairs for Maya Energy LLC and Daniel Repay , Executive Director of the Little Calumet River Basin Development Authority. .

Now that the project changed to a solid waste processing facility there were more  regulations from the State and EPA..IDEM has consistently requested information from Maya Energy . Among the missing:

  • Solid Waste Processing facilities require the  County’s Waste District’s approval, which requires a  needs assessment, along with assessments for effect on surrounding roads,  businesses, local communities, and environment.
  • Solid Waste Processing facilities require a different  zoning approval. (The initial zoning does not apply as it was for a recycling facility.)
  • The requirement to notify adjacent property owners was not made- Steel City Academy was not notified, nor others per the first public meeting in March.

Maya’s fulfilled the  requirement of need was answered:  “The Lake County Solid Waste Management District Management Plan is extremely outdated” and no other facilities provide recycling options, most MSW is transported out of the county and he is offering a one of a kind  facility.

Also   ” the  Mayor of Gary is in favor of the facility.  The  County Commissioners are in favor of  the Facility. The Executive Director of the Lake County Solid Waste Management District  is in favor of the project” (appendix L of permit).

Mayor Freeman Wilson’s documents clearly describe her approval of the original recycling facility. There is no documentation  from John Minear , Executive Director , Lake County governing bodies in minutes or records regarding the permit that can be found.

With  a  decision coming any day now, one would think this would be newsworthy. By sheer definition Maya/ MCR has not met the requirements. Look at the documents, (Drop down ‘Alt Text and select Solid Waste SD Program ID, and enter 45-53 for ID, )  Ask those affected.  Check out Steel City Academy . A project does not get this far without help at a higher level. Who will ask the questions? Seek answers?

Fortunately the Legislature amended the Environmental Code this year- lessening penalties for misleading  or omitting information on permits and documents . Some of the enforcements were repealed altogether, along with IDEM giving regulatory powers to Regional Development Authority, or Indiana Finance Authority.

Indiana Im looking at you, the repealed statutes protecting environment, and more, were in  and more in HB1374 are statewide,



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