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Dunning Sand & Gravel Looks to Grow Organic Composting Operation

Farmington residents filled sitting and standing room in the Town Council Chamber and spilled into the hallway on Monday night as Ben Dunning addressed the Town Planning and Zoning Commission about his proposal to expand his company's composting operation.

"I'm looking to be just a small part of the solution," Dunning said of providing a place for organic waste to go.

Dunning acknowledged that there are many misconceptions about composting. He stressed that the practice is not "just putting trash in the ground and letting it rot."

"We're not just going to put in piles of 'let it rot.' That's not what you want," Dunning, owner of Dunning Sand & Gravel, said.

Dunning, who comes from a farming background, is hoping to grow the composting side of his business as a green initiative for his Farmington company.

"We always lived on a farm and composted everything," Dunning said. "We're going from farm to table, but what about going back to the farm?"

Dunning passed around current composted soil samples for members of the public in attendance to smell and feel. 

Dunning Sand & Gravel has already been composting leaves for two years, but Dunning is looking to compost other ingredients like food scraps from large kitchens at places such as UConn and Connecticut Central State University. Dunning said he is going to avoid using post-consumer waste from cafeterias that could have contaminants like stray silverware thrown away.

Dunning addressed concerns of smell and traffic from residents and commission members, stating that he doesn't anticipate a foul odor issue or too much of an increase in traffic.

While he said he can't promise there won't be an odor, he said that if there was a smell, it would be more earthy. Composted soiled would only emit an odor because of an anaerobic reaction, he said.

Dunning plans on adding two jobs for compost monitors to check the samples' temperature and odor every day.

He encouraged residents with concerns to come to him and said his door is always open for tours of the proposed facility.

"If it's really that bad, I'll go back and leave," Dunning said. "I don't want to be a nuisance to people."

Dunning said he'd be willing to do the additional organic composting on a trial basis to see how it goes.

After about a three-hour public hearing, the Planning and Zoning Commission tabled the application and agreed to continue the public hearing to its next meeting.
Josh September 17, 2013 at 07:40 AM
Thanks for the great article. The discussion with the Commission and resident comments lasted over 2 hours of the 2.5 hr meeting. This article talked a lot about Mr. Dunning's view but virtually nothing on the many viewpoints expressed by residents. Any chance you could include at least a description of some of the concerns raised so that other residents may benefit? Thanks!
Concerned Resident September 17, 2013 at 08:19 AM
Great point Josh! There are two sides to every story and the Patch needs to be impartial. At least Channel 3 showed both Mr. Dunning and a couple of residents who were opposed. If Mr. Dunning is indeed sincere in that he does "not want to be a nuisance to people" then I hope he takes last night's public hearing into consideration and withdraw his application.
pamela morrison-wolf September 17, 2013 at 08:51 AM
This is journalism???? A packed room full of intelligent, articulate citizens present their rational concerns about the proposed addition of raw garbage to the composting operation across the street from our homes, and you focus exclusively on Ben Dunning's position? I had hoped for balanced reporting - what a disappointment.
Jaimie Cura (Editor) September 17, 2013 at 10:06 AM
Joy Brigham Taylor commented on Facebook with: "I'm glad they are jumping this to help with food/veggie waste from the bigger facilities in the area. It's so easy for everyone to become a backyard composter too." https://www.facebook.com/FarmingtonCTPatch
Concerned Resident September 17, 2013 at 12:51 PM
Let's be clear about what is shown in the picture here, referenced in this article, and shown on Channel 3. Mr. Dunning provided samples of FINISHED product made from leaves he had been composting for almost a year. That is what the audience was given to smell and feel - NOT a sample of his proposed "organic" recycling (cooked and/or undercooked meats, vegetables and other food products) from UCONN and/or CCSU. A suggestion to Mr. Dunning... at the September 30th TPZ meeting how about bringing some samples of the "organic" material that will be at your facility after 3, 5, 7, etc. days? Then you will have a better idea as to why those Farmington residents expressed concerns about odors from your proposed operation. Who knows, maybe a resident or two in the area surrounding your proposed operation will bring in a small sample of their own to pass around to everyone who attends?!?
pamela morrison-wolf September 17, 2013 at 01:34 PM
Ben Dunning says the existing and unused composting building at the sewage treatment plant would be an "ideal" place to start his project, why is the town balking at this idea? Think of the revenue it could generate.
Jessie Sawyer (Editor) September 17, 2013 at 08:03 PM
Hey everyone! We summarized the concerns (smell, traffic, for instance) to give people the gist of the primary feedback and are planning a follow-up story on the reactions from residents. I decided to highlight it in a separate article so that it's more comprehensive, but forgive me, I've been out covering things in Avon and Farmington since 8 a.m. and am at a Board of Education meeting right now. Stay tuned! I encourage all of you to write letters to the editor in the blogging section so that you're views are voiced in their entirety! farmington.patch.com/blogs ~Jessie
Josh September 17, 2013 at 09:07 PM
Thanks Jessie! Looking forward to some more coverage of this important issue from all sides.
Jessie Sawyer (Editor) September 17, 2013 at 10:49 PM
Absolutely! Josh, would you like to start a blog on Farmington Patch with your own updates on the issue from a resident's perspective? Email me (Jessie.Sawyer@patch.com) or our community editor, Jaimie Cura (Jaimie.Cura@patch.com) for instructions. Any resident is also welcome to do so. ~Jessie
Josh September 17, 2013 at 10:52 PM
I've started a website to share information and help organize the community to oppose the Dunning plan. It's call The Dunning Plan Stinks. Please join to keep updated on the latest information. https://www.facebook.com/thedunningplanstinks
Paul Chotkowski September 18, 2013 at 10:47 AM
Town of Farmington mandatory recycling, CT bottle deposits and redemption requirements, CT renewable energy portfolio requirements, Congressional outlawing of 100 watt incandescent bulbs, Congressionally mandated Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for cars and light trucks, diversion of Federal automotive gas taxes to fund mass transit, Environmental Protection Agency mandated Renewable Fuel Standards, and the list goes on and on and on! But they all have two things in common. First the Progressive Collectivist’s unwavering certainty that they know better than you the Sovereign Citizen how you should live your life and second, the almost sexual thrill of using the coercive power of the State to force you to do it! Now comes along an individual, who is willing to put his own capital at risk, to employ his God given capabilities and the Free Market to achieve the very same goal preached by these Radical Environmentalist [incidentally a movement that has been infiltrated and over run with Progressive Collectivist who see it as another wedge or hammer to redistribute income and achieve their vision of Collective Social Justice] and he is pilloried, demonized, and carped at by small minded NIMBYs [all in favor of the Collective good just at someone elses expense]. The true issue here is the fact that an individual entrepreneur is proposing a free-market profit-based solution to an environmental issues and the Progressive Collectivist are ticked off that the State did not MANDATE a COLLECTIVE solution under PENALTY OF LAW to one of their pet issues. If the State REQUIRED it, they would be in full support. Well done Mr. Dunning that’s the way to put a thumb in the eye of the Collectivists, make a profit, and do some long term good. I use your compost in my garden and I look forward purchasing your Organic Waste version of the the same. I Miss America but it is people like you that give me hope that we will rebuild!
Concerned Resident September 18, 2013 at 12:52 PM
Paul - Pillorized? Demonized? Carped at? Oh my! Did you read the comments here and were you at the TPZ meeting this past Monday. The people who have written here and spoke there did none of what you say. Those who mentioned Mr. Dunning did so with a common theme - that is heart is in the right place with what he wants to do but that the proposed location is WRONG. BTW, is your position/argument (some might say "agenda" if they've read all your other Patch posts) truly that empty that you have to resort to name-calling ("small minded") to those who oppose Mr. Dunning's plans?
Paul Chotkowski September 18, 2013 at 11:16 PM
@ Concerned Resident consider Cowboying up [or Cowgirling, not sure what the gender neutral equivalent is] and posting under your full true name. IMHO until you do your comments are VALUELESS. You don't require my permission or approval to express your views [thank goodness] but you undercut any serious consideration of your position when you attack anonymously. Mr Dunning put himself, his plan, and his company in the open, consider coming out from under the bridge and putting your name to your opinions. Then and only then will you have earned my consideration, until then carping is as carping posts! Thanks for the promotion but for the record my opinion is only my opinion [individual freedom and responsibility] I'm not the one telling others what they should do with their land or business. Once upon a time the Constitution was the law of the land not an agenda. I Miss America.
Concerned Resident September 19, 2013 at 09:05 AM
Paul - just so we're straight, is it safe for me to assume that you have read the comments posted here but that you were NOT at the TPZ meeting this past Monday? As for not posting my full true name, that is one of the beauties of living in America - I don't have to if I don't choose to! If you re-read the posts, you will see that there are no attacks on Mr. Dunning, just people stating facts and their OPINIONS. Actually, the closest thing to an attack here is you resorting to name-calling in your first post. This was also true at the TPZ meeting which, if you were there, you would know. Anyone who mentioned Mr. Dunning by name commended him for his initiative (as well as other things he has done for Farmington) but felt that, for a variety of reasons, the location of his proposed organic recycling facility was wrong. I and a lot of other people continue to maintain that and is something we will express again on September 30th. I hope to see you then...
Paul Chotkowski September 19, 2013 at 11:20 AM
One more time and then I am done with this thread. You are welcome to the last word. Yes you have the "right" to carp anonymously from under the bridge. However, your lack of character shows when you are unwilling to stand behind your comments with your true full name. You make a reasonable discussion of the issues impossible when you refuse [as is your "Right"] to stand in the public square [Patch] and discuss the issues without hiding who you are. You may not like it when I say so [and Ms Sawyer may delete my comment as inappropriate] but IMHO you cheapen your position when you fail the simple test of loyalty to it and fail to stand behind your words and actions with your good name. In a very real sense this is another reason why I Miss America. Once upon a time Americans had the courage of their convictions and were willing to storm the beaches at Normandy or Iwo Jima rather than sit under a bridge and write anonymous posts. If you ever cowboy up let me know, the coffee or adult beverage of your choice is on me and we can discuss the issues of recycling, composting, land use, capitalism, liberty & government regulations and mandates face to face. Until then, please enjoy the anonymous exercise of your God given Constitutionally protected right of free speech, I'm done trying to talk with someone who will not give me the courtesy of their name.
Concerned Resident October 02, 2013 at 08:30 AM
Mr. Dunning - you have heard, and listened, to the concerns of the many neighbors surrounding your proposed facility and have indeed stayed true to your word ("I don't want to be a nuisance to people") by withdrawing your application from the TPZ. For that, I tip my hat to you and say "thanks"!

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