A landfill proposed for North Bryan County is at a standstill with both the county government and state Coastal Resource Commission claiming the other must take action for anyone to move forward on the request.
At its regular meeting Wednesday at the Richmond Hill City Center, the CRC reported negative findings in the development of regional impact (DRI) for the solid waste landfill proposed for a tract of land in the Black Creek community by Pooler-based Atlantic Waste Services.
“We have reviewed this…and we have recommended for a finding not in the best interest of the state,” CRC Executive Director Allen Burns said.
But despite the finding the CRC tabled voting on the findings because of conflicts with Bryan County ordinances.
“My point is I do not see this body’s assignment under the current state of DRI review to be able to make any comment on any DRI that does not comply (locally), and I’m not sure how it got into the DRI process if it didn’t meet the local zoning,” council member Tom Ratcliffe said.
Burns said under the rules of the DRI process, a project of this size would not only affect the county but the region, which requires it to go through the DRI review first.
“Under the rules, in order for a local government to move forward with a significant change in something that has the magnitude of an impact as this project does, such as a rezoning or an annexation of a major tract, it has to go through the DRI process first for review,” Burns explained.
Burns further explained this is simply a recommendation, not an actual approval or disapproval of the landfill itself, and that the final decision is ultimately up to Bryan County.
Since the CRC tabled the matter, County Administrator Phil Jones said the county is at a standstill.
“As far as we’re concerned, no action for the county, from my understanding, can be taken as long as there is a pending DRI,” Jones said Friday.
He said the issue is now in the hands of the property owner.
“There are questions that need to be answered and most will probably fall back on Mr. Wall, and I can’t speak for him,” Jones said.
Atlantic Waste Services Vice President Ben Wall said he felt the DRI should have been a “positive finding with conditions,” and that his company was meeting Friday to discuss the options for moving forward.
“After Wednesday, we are still not exactly sure what the process is to go forward and we’re actually going to have a meeting to discuss what we feel is best,” Wall said.
The negative finding in the DRI was cited for numerous reasons, but Burns emphasized two points: that a review of state solid waste reports indicates a sufficient capacity for the majority of landfills in and near the region for 20 or more years; and conflicts the landfill would have with Bryan County zoning ordinance.
The county’s current ordinance states a landfill must be located off of a state or federal highway and that a waste management district is prohibited within 1,000 feet of a residence or residential well.
Atlantic Waste Services has submitted an application to Bryan County to amend the ordinance’s text to allow a landfill to built off of a county road and change the separation distance from 1,000 to 500 feet. The application is pending, Wall said, because the CRC requested that Bryan County table the text amendment until the DRI review was complete.
The DRI also cites a lack of a conservation easement on the proposed property for the landfill. The property is within a wetlands area in Black Creek, and without the easement, the DRI states it is unknown what impacts would occur to areas considered “conservation” during active operations of the landfill.
Wall said Atlantic Waste is prepared to give a conservation easement of more than 600 acres. He said it is just a matter of working with the proper agencies to do so.
The negative finding also addresses the economic factor of disposal fees. The report states Coastal Georgia pays some of the highest disposal fees in the state and that limited landfills in the region leads to higher-than-state-average disposal fees. However, Atlantic Waste did not provide projected disposal fees for this landfill.
These findings come after Atlantic Waste Services appealed the CRC’s initial findings in July that the landfill was not in the best interest of the state. The original negative findings were because a site plan for the facility was not included in information the CRC sent to other state agencies.
The CRC plans to discuss the DRI report again at its Nov. 16 meeting at 10 a.m. at the Richmond Hill City Center.