County to vote on expanding local landfill

By Justin Reedy

The Clayton County Board of Commissioners will decide tonight if it will allow a construction and demolition landfill in northern Clayton County to expand by more than 280 acres.

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.

Though company officials argued that the landfill would be an improvement over the quarry housed on that property now, the county Zoning Advisory Group sided with residents opposed to the landfill when it recommended denying Newco's zoning petition at a meeting last week.

Local residents who have been outspoken against the proposed landfill are worried that the county commission could go against the zoning group's recommendation and approve the rezoning petition. That's why the real showdown will be at tonight's commission meeting, according to 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.

"The battle is won, but the war is not over," said Knox.

David Flint, who represented Newco at last week's meeting, told zoning 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 $15-20 million in user fees collected by those dumping materials at the landfill.

A construction and demolition landfill can house inert materials, such as tree stumps and branches, as well as material from demolished buildings such as wall board and shingles. Newco had already won zoning approval on a proposed construction and demolition landfill in the same area in 2001, but is still waiting for a permit for that facility from the state Environmental Protection Division. That facility is about 30 acres.

Regardless of what will be stored in the landfill, local residents say they are opposed to having such a facility close to a high-density 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."

Having a landfill for a neighbor will negatively affect this and other generations of residents in that area, opponents say.

"It will have some effect on property values, plus there's the stigma of living near a landfill," Knox said.

The landfill is also close to the nearly completed Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School, she added, and is in the area where the Flint River begins n two places where water quality should be a top priority. Knox said if Newco representatives are to be believed that a construction and demolition landfill isn't a harmful neighbor, then they should be willing to put one near their own homes.

"If it's not that bad, then take it and put in your community," Knox said. "Clayton County is not a dumping ground n especially not in our backyards."