Published January 16th, 2024 at 4:39 PM3 minute read
Nine-year-old Macie Thomas loves living in Raymore. She said she spends the summers playing outside, golfing and swimming. Her best friend and her grandmother both live nearby.
But Thomas told Missouri senators Tuesday that she fears a landfill proposed just over the city limits in Kansas City will change everything.
Thomas said her father suffers lung issues from exposure to toxic burn pits during his time in the U.S. Marine Corps. Her grandmother has cancer, and her brother has severe asthma. She worries living near a landfill will make them all sick, and said her grandmother’s doctor suggested she’d have to move away.
“I don’t want her to move,” Thomas said. “We get to see each other almost every day. She makes the best hot chocolate and biscuits in the morning. We craft and garden and snuggle.”
The landfill — proposed by KC Recycle & Waste Solutions — would be built just south of Missouri Highway 150 in Kansas City. It’s less than a mile from the Creekmoor golf course community, located in Raymore, with homes priced between $500,000 and $1 million.
Mayors of Raymore, Lee’s Summit and other suburban Kansas City municipalities have decried the project, saying it will harm their constituents and communities.
But the Kansas City-Raymore border is just far enough from the site that developers wouldn’t need the approval of any of those cities to build on the Kansas City site. Nearby residents are hoping the Missouri General Assembly will change that.
Thomas and fellow residents spoke in support of legislation that would block the landfill. Two bills, sponsored by Republican Sens. Mike Cierpiot of Lee’s Summit and Rick Brattin of Harrisonville, would require that municipalities within one mile of a landfill built in an adjacent city be allowed to sign off before the state can issue an environmental permit. Right now, the buffer zone is half a mile.
Rick Meyers, a Kansas City resident who said he lives near the site, quoted a former U.S. Supreme Court justice to say one person can’t infringe on another’s rights.
“My right to swing my fist ends where your nose begins,” Meyers said.
He added: “Their right to put in a harmful landfill next door to a school in the middle of a growing neighborhood does not serve my and my neighbors’ rights to our property, to breathe clean, toxin-and odor-free air.”
The same bill was debated last year, but it stalled in the Senate when another Republican lawmaker — who received a campaign contribution from a political action committee associated with one of the lobbying firms working for KC Recycling & Waste Solutions — launched a filibuster.
Brattin responded the next day with a filibuster of his own, bringing the Senate to a halt for nine hours as its time to pass the state’s annual budget grew short. He relented after striking a deal with fellow senators to amend the budget to fund a study by Missouri environmental regulators into the possible effects a landfill would have on the surrounding communities.
But Gov. Mike Parson later vetoed that funding, saying the budget passed by legislators was $1.7 billion larger than he had recommended and decreased revenues while increasing expenditures. He added that the landfill was a “local responsibility with minimal statewide impact” and that other funding mechanisms besides earmarked state funding should be used.
KC Recycle & Waste Solutions is owned by a married couple: Jenny and Aden Monheiser.
Jenny Monheiser spoke at Tuesday’s hearing in the Missouri Senate’s Local Government and Elections Committee, saying the region is quickly running out of landfill space and needs a new facility.
“I’m not so naïve to think that people wake up in the morning and hope that somebody will knock on their door and say that there’s going to be a landfill developed in their area,” Monheiser said. “The fact of the matter is, though, landfills are a part of infrastructure that cities need.”
Monheiser said her company wants to be “responsible neighbors and engage stakeholders.”
During debate over similar legislation last year, Monheiser asked legislators not to change the rules in the middle of the game. While her company hasn’t sought rezoning or an environmental permit, they have started acquiring the site.
But it’s unclear how much land they have already assembled.
After the last legislative session, the Monheisers and opponents of the landfill started donating and organizing to influence the legislature.
The Monheisers have donated more than $42,000 to state and local races and political action committees, including $25,000 to Southern Drawl PAC, which is supporting Sen. Holly Thompson Rehder’s run for lieutenant governor.
Kill the Fill PAC, which opposes the landfill, has raised more than $157,000 since its launch last May.
The committee took no action on either bill Tuesday.
Allison Kite is a data reporter for the Missouri Independent, where this story first appeared, with a focus on the environment and agriculture.