Broward commission postpones high-profile vote on ’emotional issue’ of mountainous north county dump

The Monarch Hill landfill. Photo: (c) Jorge Molina

UPDATE: Monday 11 a.m. Florida Bulldog has learned that Tuesday’s specially set 1:30 meeting before the Broward County Commission to consider a controversial proposal by Waste Management that it could use to expand the footprint of the Monarch Hill landfill has been postponed for at least 90 days. Meanwhile, Waste Management will submit a second proposal to greatly increase the dump’s height. This is a developing story…

By Dan Christensen,

To dump, nor not to dump. That is the question.

At 1:30 Tuesday afternoon, giant Waste Management will ask the Broward County Commission to alter the county’s land use designation on the site of a decommissioned waste-to-energy plant on company property that could provide it with 24.2 acres of new dumping ground adjacent to its towering Monarch Hill landfill in North Broward.

If approved, the change would presage years, perhaps decades more use of Monarch Hill for what opponents label a Neanderthal approach to waste disposal and Waste Management, which now also goes by the initials WM, sees as its best path to profit. Company spokeswoman Dawn McCormick said that without that redesignation from electrical generation to industrial, or an allowable change in height, the landfill, now approaching its current cap of 225 feet in height, will reach capacity in six years. She also noted that there would have to be an additional zoning change to allow the property to be used as a landfill.

Residents in nearby Coconut Creek, who have complained loudly for years about the landfill’s stink and pollution, are not happy. “This is a big, very emotional issue,” said Mayor Joshua Rydell, who wants the county to reject the proposal. “We’ve really engaged our resident base. We have buses going to this meeting.”

County Commissioner Mark Bogen, left, and Coconut Creek Mayor Joshua Rydell

Deerfield Beach, which abuts the landfill on the north, also has expressed its strong opposition to the proposed change.

Those north county cities’ representative at the county, Commissioner Mark Bogen, is also against the redesignation. “I am absolutely going to oppose it. The expansion of that landfill will provide more opportunities for more air and water pollution and odor.”

“The county has a landfill up close to U.S. 27 that’s pretty much unused out in the southwest part of the county,” said Bogen. “The county administration’s position has always been, well, we want to save that for a rainy day, for the future. Maybe the future is now. The life of that landfill would be at least 50 years.”


Waste Management’s McCormick, however, argues that approval for Monarch Hill is important – and not only for her employer.

Waste Management lobbyists John Milledge, William Laystrom, Alex Gonzalez and Chris Carey

“Ninety percent of what comes to the Monarch landfill is either construction and demolition debris or bulky waste that cannot be incinerated, and the majority of it has already gone through the recycling process at one of our recycling facilities so it’s material that has to be landfilled,” McCormick said. “If Monarch Hill isn’t allowed to utilize its potential or its vertical air space, this material would need to be shipped hundreds of miles away round trip to Okeechobee landfill and the truck traffic and greenhouse gas emissions from that type of scenario is really impactful for our environment.”

According to McCormick, the 24.2-acre parcel is 5.6 percent of the landfill’s current footprint. If redesignation is denied, Waste Management could seek permission to go much further in height. “Our engineers believe that a max height would be in the 325 to 340-foot range,” McCormick said.

Waste Management has people in the trenches pushing hard to win approval.

County commission records show that last week alone Waste Management lawyer/lobbyists John Milledge and William Laystrom, and company executives Alex Gonzalez and Chris Carey met individually and privately with Commissioners Michael Udine, Robert McKinzie and Lamar Fisher.

Udine, who is up for re-election, reported that his campaign received a $1,000 check from Milledge in May. Commissioner Steve Geller is also up for re-election this year. Campaign records show that on Aug. 30 he got $4,000, or $1,000 each from Waste Management, Milledge, Laystrom and a Waste Management subsidiary, Okeechobee Landfill Inc. Commissioner Hazelle Rogers received a $1,000 donation from Waste Management on Nov. 27.


Waste Management’s push for the change, which began with an application filed four years ago, comes at an inopportune time for Broward’s nearly 2 million residents. Approval could preempt work by the county’s newest governmental entity, the independent Solid Waste and Recycling Authority.

The authority, established recently through a new interlocal agreement whose signatories today are 28 municipalities and the county, is just now attempting to get its footing. The countywide mission: “to provide waste disposal and recycling services for public benefit through a collaborative effort that is environmentally sustainable, reduces the waste stream, provides innovative strategies and economic inefficiencies.”

Left unstated is that the authority’s leaders are trying to clean up the political and administrative mess regarding solid-waste policy bequeathed to them by county leaders decades ago, and exacerbated in recent years by the effective demise of recycling across Broward in the wake of Waste Management’s hegemony of trash disposal.

A few cities offer small impact recycling programs. For example, Deerfield Beach is doing a pilot recycling program with 100 residents to pick up organic food waste, and Coral Springs has a similar small-scale program, said Coconut Creek City Manager Sheila Rose. Coconut Creek has two drop-off centers where residents and city businesses can bring flattened corrugated cardboard boxes, rinsed plastic bottles and jugs labeled #1 and #2, and rinsed aluminum and steel cans.

Meanwhile, Florida seems to have largely walked away from its declared statewide recycling goal of 75 percent. That was supposed to have been achieved by 2020. In 2021, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection issued a report declaring that the recycling rate was just 50 percent. Officials in three municipalities Florida Bulldog spoke with said they have had no contact from any state agency urging them to meet the recycling goal established by the Legislature in 2008.

The Solid Waste and Recycling Authority is not a taxing body and is initially being funded by membership dues paid by its municipal members, with additional help coming from the Broward League of Cities. Once up and running, members will contract with the authority to take waste from their haulers for a fee.


The authority’s most immediate goals are to hire both an executive director and a savvy consultant to come up with a master plan to address the county’s waste disposal needs for decades to come.

The three Broward cities who have yet to sign on: Pompano Beach, Hallandale Beach and Pembroke Pines.

“I think in time they’ll see the error of their ways and ask to join,” said Cooper City Mayor Greg Ross, who also serves as chairman of the authority’s 11-member executive committee.

The 500-acre Monarch Hill site in unincorporated Broward is bounded on the north by Wiles Road, on the south by Sample Road, on the east by Powerline Road and on the west by Florida’s Turnpike. When it was opened in a sparsely populated area in 1965, Coconut Creek was still two years away from incorporation. Today, more than 57,000 people call Coconut Creek home.

Broward Administrator Monica Cepero

The land at issue at Tuesday’s meeting was until July being used as a waste transfer station. The old waste-to-energy plant has already been hollowed out, and the company plans to demolish it soon.

The county agenda item for Tuesday’s proposed action is not easily understood. “This action changes the Broward Municipal Services District Future Land Use Map Designation of an approximately 24.2-acre site from Electrical Generating Facility to Industrial,” it says.

“If you were a lay person and looked at the agenda, you would have no idea what this was,” said Coconut Creek Mayor Rydell, who believes it was done deliberately. “Whoever is drafting it for submission is 100 percent listening to [County Administrator] Monica [Cepero]. I find it offensive that this is being phrased on an agenda like this. You have to dig into this item to understand what it is.”

Rydell’s theory may explain why the county’s very bureaucratic-sounding Resilient Environment Department and its Urban Planning Division are recommending commissioners approve Waste Management’s proposal.


Cooper City Mayor Greg Ross

The Broward County Planning Council, whose 20 members include private citizens and elected officials mostly chosen by the nine county commissioners, voted 12-0 against recommending expansion of any landfill in the county.

Cooper City Mayor Ross, the new solid-waste authority’s chair, declined to say what he’d like to see the county do on Tuesday. But he said the authority will be looking away from landfills as the disposal answer.

“It’s always been either burn it or bury it. Right now, we also have composting. We have anaerobic digestion, aerobic digestion and other methods. Everything is going to be considered,” he said.

Even building another waste-to-energy plant, like the North Broward plant that county taxpayers paid for over 30 years and then gave away to Waste Management?

“Everything is going to be considered, with the idea of going towards zero waste. It’s gonna be reduce, reuse and recycle,” Ross said.

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Latest comments

  • STAND FIRM Mayor Nan Rich and County Commissioners! The Solid Waste & Recycling Authority is working hard to protect our environment and Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. THEY are not working to make a financial profit. WM does not have an altruistic bone in its corporate body. Residents of our County can offer small dollar amount campaign contributions, not the mega-bucks of the giant WM.
    STAND FAST. Vote NO for expansion. Open up the US 27 site while the Authority fine tunes its plans.
    VOTE NO for expansion at Monarch Hill. Please.

  • Can Deerfield residences attend Waste Management meetings to voice their opinions on the Monarch Hill push to expand, posing a negative impact on our environment.

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