Environmental justice clash in Upper Darby brings withdrawal of waste-facility application

The site of a proposed solid waste management facility in Lansdowne, Pa. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

The site of a proposed solid waste management facility in Lansdowne, Pa. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

After it was met with widespread community backlash, an application for a special exception for a solid waste management facility at 41 S. Union Ave. in Upper Darby has been withdrawn.

The application was filed by Bill Santora of A&E Construction Co. His lawyer, Michael Robinson, sent a letter to the Upper Darby Department of Licenses and Inspections on Wednesday officially withdrawing the pending application.

WHYY News reached out to Santora’s lawyer to speak about why the application had been withdrawn and the possibility of a future amended application. Robinson declined to comment.

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Although the property, which is in a commercial-industrial zoning district, falls within the borders of Upper Darby, it is located in a predominantly Black area where the township converges with several other Delaware County towns, including Lansdowne, East Lansdowne, and Yeadon.

Santora’s short-lived application got a cold reception from all three of the towns, which all sent legal representation to oppose it Jan. 21 at an initial virtual Zoning Hearing Board meeting that was filled to capacity. They cited environmental concerns and injustice as the primary reason for their opposition.

In addition, two nearby churches, a business, and even the nation’s oldest Black-owned swim club, the Nile Swim Club, were granted party status in the matter, which allowed them to cross-examine witnesses and appeal a future decision.

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Though it is unknown how much community pushback played a role in Santora’s decision to withdraw the application, a Change.org petition against it garnered more than 1,700 signatures.

Many community members credited Betty Byrd Smith, a retired disability advocate and co-creator of the petition, for sounding the alarm.

She had predicted a “TKO” at a second zoning hearing, then scheduled for Feb. 9.

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