Several cities in North County filed a last-minute lawsuit Tuesday, claiming a permit to expand the area's only landfill would treat them unfairly.
Attorney D. Dwight Worden stressed that the suing cities of Encinitas, Escondido, Oceanside and Carlsbad strongly favor expanding the San Marcos landfill, "but they cannot live with the conditions placed on the expansion permit by the city of San Marcos."
A year ago, the county decided to double the landfill's capacity and got a permit from San Marcos to increase the dump's height by 200 feet and to expand the landfill that's the only place for about 500,000 North County customers to dump their trash. The site is expected to be filled and closed by late February.
The suit challenges requirements that North County cities deliver all their future trash to the landfill; that all vehicles entering the dump be powered by natural gas or other non-polluting fuels, and that the dump be closed Sundays, the day when most people haul trash to the dump.
Worden said the cities also seek to remove "unreasonable" conditions in the expansion permit requiring other cities to pay a $5.50 per ton "host fee" to San Marcos for use of the county landfill.
The cities also object to conditions that the county sell property around the landfill to San Marcos at below-market prices and that Carlsbad reopen portions of Rancho Santa Fe Road to trash trucks.
"We are only filing this lawsuit to protect our clients' rights," Worden said. "The cities involved have not changed their stance in favor of the expansion of the landfill," Worden said.
Tuesday was the final day on which a legal challenge to the permit could be filed, Worden said. While the city of San Marcos has granted extensions to the filing deadline in the past, "we learned late last week that they were not going to extend the deadline again," he said.
County Supervisor Brian P. Bilbray reacted with anger to the lawsuit.
"If they don't like the conditions that San Marcos put on the (landfill expansion) permit, then let them site landfills within their own cities," Bilbray said.
"The landfill is located in San Marcos and that puts San Marcos in the driver's seat. That's the problem of having to rely on sites outside one's jurisdiction for necessary services."
Supervisor John MacDonald expressed regret that the North County cities had sued, and cited the "tight time schedule we face in gaining approval of the expansion before the present site reaches capacity."
MacDonald said the county was not involved in imposing the permit conditions on other cities for use of the county landfill. He added that county officials had asked San Marcos city leaders to extend the deadline for challenging the permit requirements, "but obviously they did not do so."