Smeller's Market

Excavators raise a stink over Garfield Heights's landfill development.

It's a recipe for olfactory delight: Take 200 acres of stinking garbage. Cover with topsoil and grass. Let simmer for 23 years. Uncover on a hot, muggy day, and stir. Can you say, "Holy %$#&," boys and girls?

Garfield Heights certainly can. The smell of springtime in New Jersey has been wafting across the city ever since Pete Boyas, retired boss of Boyas Excavating, began digging up his R&B Landfill.

The site stands between I-480 and acreage Boyas owns in Valley View. So, 23 years after the landfill closed, Boyas is moving 430,000 cubic yards of steamy garbage from one side of the site to another. The digging will create highway access for Rockside Vista, a $1 billion office, retail, and hotel complex Boyas plans to build on the Garfield Heights/Valley View border.

Officials expected the project to stink. "When it's humid, the stench of rotting trash will literally just hang in the air," says Kara Allison of the Ohio EPA.

Mayor Thomas Longo would agree. "A couple days ago, it was intense," he says.

Yet to city officials, it's the sweet stench of money. Garfield Heights is counting on the project to double its tax base. "That's why we've been sucking it up and dealing with the aggravation," says Longo. "As a first-ring suburb, it's difficult to expand economically."

Some neighbors, however, believe the mayor should have factored torture into his cost-benefit analysis. "It's ridiculous," says one man, covering his nose. "When the wind is coming the right way, you can't even breathe."

This isn't the first time the nostrils of Garfield Heights have endured R&B. Back in the 1960s, the landfill took in trash from all over the county and was well regarded for its aromatic powers. "There are certainly people in the area who say, 'This landfill ruined my life 30 years ago, and here it is again,'" says Vince Caraffi of the Cuyahoga County Board of Health.

But the Ohio EPA, Mother Nature's hapless bodyguard, assures The Edge that the project poses no environmental risks. What it can't assure us of is the success of Rockside Vista. After all, why would corporate dandies want to lease offices and stores next to a landfill? Isn't that like opening a wine bar outside LTV?