United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
TRYKO HOLDINGS, LLC, On behalf of itself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
CITY OF HARRISBURG and MAYOR ERIC PAPENFUSE, Defendants.
John E. Jones III Plaintiff Tryko Holdings, LLC brought the
above-captioned action on its own behalf and on behalf of all
others similarly situated seeking declarative and injunctive
relief against Defendants the City of Harrisburg and its
Mayor, Eric Papenfuse. Presently pending before the Court is
Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint,
(Doc. 1) (the “Motion”). (Doc. 8). The Motion has
been fully briefed, (Docs. 16, 19, 24), and is ripe for
disposition. For the reasons that follow, the Motion shall be
accordance with the standard of review applicable to a motion
to dismiss, the following facts are derived from
Plaintiff's complaint and viewed in the light most
favorable to it.
The Incinerator Sale
1972, the City of Harrisburg (the “City”) owned
an incinerator, which it had to close in 2003 due to
environmental and fiscal challenges. (Doc. 19-1, at ¶
22). The City attempted to retrofit the incinerator, but the
contractor it had hired for the job went bankrupt.
(Id.). The failed retrofitting project sunk the City
into more than $300 million of debt. (Id. at ¶
23). The City issued bonds to raise money, but it began
missing payments in 2009. (Id. at ¶ 23). In
2010, Pennsylvania's Department of Community and Economic
Development declared the City a “financially distressed
municipality” under Act 47. (Id.).
2011, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania produced a bailout
plan for the City, which the Harrisburg City Council
rejected. (Id. at ¶ 24). Ultimately, in 2012,
the Commonwealth Court placed the City in receivership,
(id. at ¶ 25), and the Receiver, General
William E. Lynch, formulated the “Harrisburg Strong
Plan” (the “Plan”) to guide the City's
financial recovery. (Id.). The Plan required the
City to sell its incinerator to the Lancaster County Solid
Waste Management Authority (“Lancaster”) for
$129.9 million. (Id. at ¶ 26). As part of the
arrangement, however, the City guaranteed to provide
Lancaster with 35, 000 tons of trash to process per year, for
20 years, at a cost of $190 per ton. (Id. at
¶¶ 26- 27). In effect, the City committed to
providing Lancaster with $133 million of debt service over 20
incinerator sale precipitated two municipal actions relevant
to the instant litigation. First, in July 2013, the
Harrisburg City Council raised the City's waste
collection and disposal rates to offset the City's debt
service to Lancaster. (Id. at ¶ 29). The City
promulgated its new waste collection rates in a document
entitled “Commercial Volume Rate Effective April 1,
2015.” (Id. at ¶ 33). Second, on February
9, 2015, the City's Mayor, Eric Papenfuse (the
“Mayor”), announced in a letter to the City's
businesses that the City-rather than private haulers-would
assume all municipal waste and recycling collection duties
within the City. (Id. at ¶¶ 30, 32). The
Mayor's letter explained that the City would be doing so
“as a result of the sale of the Harrisburg Incinerator
to Lancaster County Solid Waste Authority and the trash
volume requirements placed upon the City by the conditions of
the sale . . . .” (Id. ¶ 31). The City
then made agreements with private waste haulers to keep them
from collecting waste within the City. (Id. at
Tryko Holdings, LLC (“Tryko” or
“Plaintiff”), owns and operates multifamily
apartment buildings within the City. (Id. at ¶
1). Prior to the Harrisburg City Council's waste
collection and disposal rate increase and the Mayor's
letter, Plaintiff had been paying a private hauler $2, 200
per month to remove its trash. (Id. at ¶ 34).
Under the new rates, Plaintiff's costs rose by 340% per
month for assertedly-identical services. (Id. at
¶ 38). On January 14, 2018, the City ordered Plaintiff
to cease using its private trash hauler and pay the increased
rates. (Id. at ¶ 70).
The Third-City Code and the City's Municipal
Pennsylvania law, the City of Harrisburg is considered a city
of the third-class governed by Pennsylvania's Third-Class
City Code. (Id. at ¶ 20). Relevant to the
instant case, the Third-Class City Code provides that a
third-class city's “[c]ouncil . . . may prohibit
accumulations of ashes, garbage, solid waste and other refuse
materials upon private property, including the imposition and
collection of reasonable fees and charges for the collection,
removal and disposal.” (Id. at ¶ 21
(emphasis omitted) (quoting 11 Pa.C.S. § 12409(a)
accordance therewith, in 1992, the City adopted several
provisions governing waste management in its own local
municipal code,  (see Id. at ¶ 43), including
a requirement that the City segregate the funds it collected
in connection with waste management services from its other
funds. (Doc. 19-2, lns. 783-91; see also
Doc. 19-1 at ¶ 44). Under its local municipal code, the
City could use these segregated funds only to:
[D]efray the expenses of the City in the operation,
maintenance (including insurance), repair, alteration,
inspection, and other ordinary expenses in relation to the
disposal facility and for the making of usual renewals and
replacements and ordinary improvements thereto in order to
maintain adequate service, including any taxes lawfully
imposed, payable by the City under other payment required to
be paid under such lease or supplement.
(Doc. 19-2, lns. 785-91; Doc. 19-1 at ¶ 45).
addition, the City's local municipal code provided that
the City would collect all waste generated therein. (Doc.
19-2, lns. 418-23; see also Doc. 19-1 at ¶ 51).
However, the same provision also empowered the Director of
the Department of Public Works to exempt nonresidential
properties from this general requirement. (Doc. 19-2, lns.
418-23; see also Doc. 19-1 at ¶ 51). The
Director could do so based upon “the type, nature, or
quantity of . . . [nonresidential] waste or the necessity of
more frequent collection than provided by the City . . .
.” (Doc. 19-2, lns. 419-21; see also Doc. 19-1
at ¶ 51). If granted an exemption, owners of
nonresidential properties could contract with private waste
haulers to provide waste management services instead of the
City. (See Doc. 19-2, lns. 455-59; Doc. 19-1 at
¶ 53). Residential properties, including multifamily
residential properties like the kind Plaintiff operated, were
not given this allowance. (See Doc. 19-1 at ¶
3, 2018, the City amended the waste management portion of its
local municipal code. (See Doc. 19-2; Doc. 19 at 9).
The amended provisions allowed “commercial”
properties to petition the Director to waive the requirement
that the City collect and dispose of their waste thereby
allowing them to utilize a private trash hauler. (Doc. 19-2,
lns. 452-55l; see also Doc. 19 at 9). The amendment
included within its definition of “commercial”
any “apartment buildings with five or more individual
domiciles . . . .” (Doc. 19-2, lns. 96-100; see
also Doc. 19 at 9). The July 3, 2018 amendments also
removed the section of the municipal code that limited the
ways the City was permitted to use funds collected in
connection with its waste program. (Doc. 19-2, lns. 782-91).
28, 2019, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in this Court raising
three primary issues. In Count I, Plaintiff avers that
Defendants violated the Commerce Clause of the United States
Constitution by prohibiting private waste haulers from
collecting and disposing of waste within the City.
(Id. at ¶ 73-74). Plaintiff seeks damages,
attorneys' fees, and declaratory and injunctive relief
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and § 1988. (Id. at
¶¶ 78-80). In Count II, Plaintiff seeks a
declaration that the City's increased rates for municipal
waste collection and disposal services are unreasonable and
thereby unlawful. (Id. ¶ 86). In Count II,
Plaintiff also seeks equitable relief in the form of
disgorgement. (Id.). In Count III, Plaintiff raises
an equal protection challenge premised upon the City's
failure to allow multifamily residential properties to
request a waiver under its local municipal trash collection
regime. (See Id. at ¶¶
89-90). Plaintiff seeks damages, attorneys'
fees, and declaratory and injunctive relief under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 and § 1988. (Id. at ¶¶
filed a Motion to Dismiss on June 24, 2019, (Doc. 8), and a
brief in support thereof on July 22, 2019. (Doc. 16).
Plaintiff filed a brief in opposition on August 26, 2019.
(Doc 19). Defendants filed a Reply on October 9, 2019. (Doc.
24). For the reasons ...