A proposal to "undedicate" a 10-acre parcel of parkland in Byxbee Park to enable the construction of a waste-to-energy plant is now officially in the hands of Palo Alto voters.
The Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters confirmed this week that a petition by a coalition of environmentalists who support the new plant had more than enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot. The group, called the Palo Alto Green Energy and Compost Initiative, needed 4,356 signatures to put the land-use issue on the ballot. The county registrar confirmed that the group collected 5,128 valid signatures.
Carolyn Curtis, who coordinated the signature-gathering drive, said the group was "excited but not surprised" by the county's confirmation.
"We had a tremendous team of more than 60 volunteers who dedicated hundreds of hours to collecting signatures, and we got great results," Curtis said in a statement. "Only 2 percent of respondents refused to sign our petition because they disagreed with it."
If voters approve the proposed measure, they would make it possible for the City Council to consider the Byxbee Park site for a new anaerobic digestion facility that would convert local yard trimmings, food scraps and possibly sewage sludge into electricity. The site is part of a 126-acre landfill that is slated to close next year, after which time local yard trimmings and food scraps are slated to get trucked to regional facilities in Gilroy and San Jose, respectively.
Former Mayor Peter Drekmeier and other leaders of the citizen initiative have argued that the new plant is the best way to take care of local waste and support the city's climate-change goals. Other local conservationists, including former Councilwomen Emily Renzel and Enid Pearson, oppose any plan to convert dedicated parkland to an industrial waste-treatment site.
Earlier this month, Drekmeier's group submitted more than 6,000 signatures to the City Clerk's office. The signatures were forwarded to the county and verified Wednesday.
The measure will require the city to hold a special election in November. The City Council was scheduled to hold elections this fall, but the city changed its council elections to even years last fall, when voters approved Measure S.
If the land-use measure remains the only initiative on the ballot, the initiative would cost the city about $304,000, Assistant City Clerk Beth Minor told the council Monday night.
Meanwhile, the council is still trying to determine if the new compost facility would be economically feasible. The council discussed the preliminary results of a feasibility study for a local anaerobic digester on Monday and is scheduled to continue the discussion on April 11.