By Stuart Hirsch
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
In all of Madison County during the past 33 years, there isn’t a more contested piece of ground than the 254-acre Mallard Lake property on which the late Ralph Reed wanted to build a landfill.
Before he died last year at age 84, Reed liked to say he’d won every legal challenge — there were 15 lawsuits in all.
If ever there was a hollow victory, those legal successes would be it. Construction has never started.
Still, the Reed family holds a valid permit from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management — good until 2015 — to build a landfill, according to Bruce Palin, assistant commissioner, Office of Land Quality.
While that permit exists, Bill Kutschera and other members of the Killbuck Concerned Citizens Association can’t and won’t let down their guard.
“The place where we are at right now is very much where we’ve been for a number of years,” said Larry Whitham, a lawyer who represents the association.
Despite the valid permit from IDEM, if Reed’s surviving family or someone else wants to pursue the landfill, they would have to obtain an Improvement Location Permit from the county before construction could begin.
“I believe there substantial problems with their ability to get an ILP approved,” Whitham said.
Now, they have a new ally in their fight. Anderson Mayor Kevin Smith.
Smith says he’s long opposed the landfill. Mallard Lake is part of the four-square-mile patch on the city’s northeast side that Smith wants Anderson to annex. If the annexation is approved, the city would be in a position to oppose the landfill in court.
Smith characterizes his opposition as a moral imperative. A landfill on the property would pose a risk of contaminating Killbuck Creek and nearby Ranney and Elder Street wells, which are two of Anderson’s primary sources of water, according to the mayor.
And any future environmental cleanup would be far more costly than annexation, Smith added. “I think it’s important to address now for what may take place in the future.”
When William Anderson, now a retired family physician, bought a house in the 3400 block of Madison County Road East 200 North 15 years ago, the goal was to find a quiet country setting. He didn’t know anything about a proposed landfill.
It wasn’t long before he found out, though, and he’s a staunch opponent. But Anderson said he doesn’t see much benefit to annexation.
“We’re not on city water,” he pointed out. “We’re not on city sewer, and our fire department is volunteers from Chesterfield. We wanted to get away from the city and get out in country where it’s nice and quiet. If I believed the annexation would make the landfill go away, I’d support it. It would be worth it. As it is, the thing just seems to be grinding away.”
The Reed family’s plans are unclear.
Ralph’s widow, Kay Reed, and son, R. Jeffrey Reed, could not be reached for comment. And both the family’s local attorney, Ronald K. Fowler, and Indianapolis lawyer John Ketcham did not return phone calls seeking comment.
When local businessman Ward Stilson sold the Mallard Lake property to Reed in 1979, the idea was to earn more money for the Stilson family trust.
Things didn’t work out as planned.
Although he wouldn’t divulge an exact number, Thomas Gunn, trustee of the Stilson trust, said the Reed family owes the trust several million dollars. He said the land is for sale as agricultural property or for development as a landfill, but he would not say whether any offers are pending.
Although JM Corporation, which Reed formed years ago, technically holds deed to the property, two family trusts are the first creditors in line from sale proceeds.
“My personal preference, not speaking as trustee, is to resolve this as soon as possible and have the money that’s been owed to us paid back,” he said, speaking from his home in Grand Rapids, Mich. “We’ve definitely taken the long view on this, that’s for sure.”
Find Stu Hirsch on Facebook and @StuHirsch on Twitter, or call 640-4861.