The Georgia Supreme Court decided Monday not to review Atlantic Waste’s claim that Bryan County’s landfill zoning ordinance is unconstitutional.
The decision could mark the end of a long legal battle between Atlantic Waste, which sought to construct and operate a landfill near Black Creek, and the Bryan County Board of Commissioners.
“This should be it,” Bryan County Administrator Ray Pittman said Tuesday of the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear the company’s appeal. “We’re extremely happy about it.”
In May, Atlantic Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge David Cavender also ruled on behalf of the county, saying Atlantic Waste hadn’t overcome the presumption the ordinance is valid and related to the public welfare. The Supreme Court in turn decided not to weigh in, effectively denying Atlantic Waste’s appeal.
Pittman said it boiled down to the constitutionality of the county’s ordinance regulating landfills.
“They were suing because they thought our ordinance was unconstitutional. We felt, obviously, that our ordinance was very constitutional. The courts basically agreed our ordinance was very good and we’re very happy about that.”
Atlantic Waste attorney Harold Yellin did not return a phone call by presstime, but court documents asked the Supreme Court to consider whether a county can “enact a zoning ordinance, which facially purports to allow the construction of a landfill, but which in fact constitutes a de facto prohibition against landfills because the zoning criteria are so restrictive that a landfill cannot be constructed anywhere in the country.”
Also listed as respondents in the case were the Ogeechee Riverkeeper, Olive Branch Baptist Church and several residents.
The proposed 268-acre landfill on some 1,100 acres of Atlantic Waste-owned land was highly unpopular in North Bryan, where hundreds of yard signs urged commissioners to say no to the project in late 2011 when it became public knowledge.
In December 2011, commissioners denied a bid by the company to have the property rezoned and Atlantic Waste filed suit in January 2012. The Georgia Supreme Court didn’t have to hear the case, which was up for discretionary review, according to Supreme Court Public Information Officer Jane Hanson.
Pittman said he was unsure what the suit would ultimately wind up costing the county, but “it has not cost taxpayers a great deal of money at this time,” he said.