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Landfill expansion denied

By Justin Reedy

Clayton County officials on Thursday night denied a petition to expand a construction and demolition landfill north of Riverdale to more than 280 acres.

Newco Ventures, the company providing fill dirt for the fifth runway embankment at Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport, had hoped to rezone land between Flat Shoals and Lee's Mill roads in northern Clayton County for possible use as a construction and demolition landfill.

Newco had already secured a conditional use permit for a construction and demolition landfill on more than 100 acres of land in the same area, but sought to expand the landfill to include four other parcels of land bordering that property. The petition included a rezoning request on about 14 acres of land on the south and west sides of the current landfill zoned for residential and light industrial uses, as well as a request for a conditional use permit on that land and the more than 100-acre quarry north of the current landfill.

Newco representative David Flint told the Clayton County Board of Commissioners Thursday at the board's zoning meeting that the landfill would be a better neighbor than the existing rock quarry and its associated equipment and blasting noise. The construction and demolition landfill would be phased in over time, Flint said, as the quarry is mined for fill material headed for the Hartsfield fifth runway site.

"This would be a good use for the property, and there is no other practicable use for this land," Flint said.

Local residents were fiercely opposed to the project, citing the negative side effects a landfill would have on surrounding homes on Flat Shoals and Crystal Lake roads and in the nearby Cherry Hills subdivision on Riverdale Road.

Landfills are seen as a kind of "dirty industry" that is often located in minority neighborhoods, according to local resident Tonya Lee-Willis, and this situation seemed to be following that formula.

"We ask that you buck that trend and don't allow this here," said Lee-Willis, who is also the public relations chairwoman for the Tri-County Community Association, a community advocacy group representing residents in Clayton, Fulton and DeKalb counties.

Alita Knox, a fellow Tri-County Community Association member, pointed out that the state Environmental Protection Division has not yet given a permit to Newco for the landfill approved by the county in 2001. That proposal called for about 30 acres of land in that area to be used as a landfill.

"If the previously requested landfill has not been put into operation, how could there be a need for expansion?" Knox asked.

Several other residents spoke out against the landfill proposal, including Sylvester Bradford, who suggested that the land could be used for things other than a landfill.

"We have needs in Clayton County, but we don't have the need for a landfill," Bradford said. "We've suffered enough, and enough is enough."

Commissioner Virginia Gray, who represents that portion of Clayton County, agreed with the residents who were against the landfill expansion.

"As (the residents) stated, enough is enough," Gray said. "I think we've reached the breaking point here."

Gray then offered a motion to deny the request for a conditional use permit on the quarry land, causing a chorus of cheers from the audience. The motion carried, 3-1, with Commissioner Gerald Matthews the only dissenting vote.

Though Knox was happy to see the rezoning and use permit requests denied by the county commission, she's worried that Newco could sue to get the rezoning or bring the request back to the county in six months. But if that happens, she said, "We'll be back in force again."