Zoning group turns down local landfill

By Justin Reedy

Residents of northern Clayton County stood and cheered Monday night after the county Zoning Advisory Group recommended denying a rezoning petition that would allow a landfill near their neighborhoods.

Newco Ventures, the company providing fill dirt for the fifth runway embankment at Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport, wants to rezone 281 acres of land between Flat Shoals and Lee's Mill roads north of Riverdale for the possible use as a construction and demolition landfill.

A company representative told county officials Monday that the landfill would be an improvement over the rock quarry that is on the property now, and mentioned that the county could make millions from user fees collected at the landfill.

But the zoning group, which only has advisory powers to the county Board of Commissioners, voted 4-1 to recommend turning down Newco's zoning petition, causing an uproar in the assembled crowd of residents who turned out in opposition of the landfill.

The matter will now be decided by the county commission at its zoning meeting, which will be held at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 24, at the county Administration Building, 112 Smith St., Jonesboro.

Local resident Alita Knox, who is also a representative of the Tri-County Community Association, a community advocacy group in Clayton, DeKalb and Fulton counties, knows that the real showdown will be at the commission zoning meeting.

"The battle is won, but the war is not over," said Knox, who added that she's worried the commission could approve the landfill despite the concerns of residents and the zoning group.

David Flint, who represented Newco at the zoning meeting, told board members that the construction and demolition landfill will be a better neighbor in the area than the existing rock quarry, which is being mined for fill material for the Hartsfield fifth runway embankment.

"The idea is, over a period of time, the quarry will be phased out and the C&D landfill will be phased in," Flint said.

A quarry is a much more intense operation than a landfill, Flint said, because of the blasting and rock crushing that take place there. In addition, Flint speculated that the county could make as much as $15 to $20 million in user fees collected by those dumping materials at the landfill.

A construction and demolition landfill can accept inert materials, such as tree stumps and lawn waste, as well as building materials from demolished buildings or construction products.

Several residents spoke out against the proposed landfill after Flint's presentation, citing the negative side effects of having such a facility near a residential area.

"I don't think the county needs a landfill," said Pat Hutchinson, a property owner on Crystal Lake Road, which ends on the western edge of the Newco property. "We're a high population area. I believe there are places in the county where waste can go, but it doesn't need to be in a densely populated area.

"My request is that you look these people in the face and tell them you'll back them instead of backing this corporation," he concluded, drawing a round of applause from the crowded room.

Knox also spoke out at the meeting, saying that Newco has failed to live up to its promises from the previous landfill. That facility had displaced a cemetery, and Newco promised to move those remains to a cemetery in Stockbridge, she said, but they have yet to do so.

Flint in a rebuttal did not respond to this charge.

In addition, Knox argued that Clayton County shouldn't be the location where waste from the city of Atlanta or Fulton County is dumped.

"I think Fulton County needs to worry about its own waste," Knox said. "Clayton County is not a dumping ground n especially not in our backyards."