WEST COVINA — The City Council voted unanimously this week to approve BKK Corp.'s request for a yearlong deferral of its $40,000-per-month business license tax payments in exchange for a promise that BKK will phase out its controversial toxic dump site within 10 years.
BKK asked for a deferral of its tax in April, but city officials postponed a decision until they could come up with an agreement that in effect would put BKK out of business as a landfill.
City Manager Bob Fast said that West Covina used BKK's request as a bargaining chip to force the firm to phase out its dumping operations.
The agreement approved during Monday night's council meeting contains five conditions that must be met by BKK in order for its taxes to be deferred until August, 1986.
Control of Gases
Those conditions stipulate that BKK will use the $40,000 a month to control escaping hazardous gases and liquids at the dump. Leaking gases forced evacuation of 21 families last July. An auditing system will be set up by the city to oversee BKK's expenditures, Fast said.
The second condition orders BKK to pay 7.5% interest on the deferred tax payments. The third condition, the one most prized by city officials, calls for BKK to provide a written statement detailing transition of the 583-acre site to "urban compatible uses" in 10 years or less.
BKK must also pay for an independent consultant to study and recommend possible uses for the site.
The last condition orders BKK to immediately stop dumping non-hazardous garbage on top of toxic waste where the land is higher than 900 feet.
BKK voluntarily stopped receiving toxic waste in November but still accepts non-hazardous garbage.
Both BKK and the city said they were pleased with the agreement.
"I think it's workable," BKK President Ken Kazarian said. "It allows our company a financial transition to switch our revenue base from dumping fees to development."
Fast, who helped draw up the agreement, said, "We've taken 10 years from them that they would have used to stay in operation."
A binding agreement that reflects the independent consultant's recommendations for the site will be signed by the city and BKK within 60 days, Fast said.
Kazarian said he is considering developing a golf course and hotel on the dump site, following the example of nearby Industry Hills where a high-rise Sheraton and a rolling golf course cover what was a landfill. But, he said, "there are all sorts of possibilities. Our property is rapidly becoming an undeveloped island."
Not everyone, however, was pleased with the agreement.
One nearby resident, Les Cook, a longtime critic of the city's dealings with BKK and president of Hearthstone Homeowners Assn., accused West Covina of "selling out" to the landfill's owners Monday night.
"But the city at large, hopefully, will see it for what it really is," Fast said. "It's a tremendous victory for the city. We're able to see a bright light at the end of the tunnel."
BKK's request to postpone its taxes was made in an effort to meet the conditions of a stipulated agreement reached earlier this year in Los Angeles Superior Court by the city, BKK and regulatory agencies monitoring the dump. That agreement, which called for extensive testing and monitoring of leaking gases and liquids, settled a lawsuit filed by the city against BKK after the evacuation last July. The last of the evacuated homeowners returned to their houses in January.