Landfill issue goes back to commission

By Justin Reedy

Clayton County officials earlier this year turned down a private company's request to expand a landfill north of Riverdale, but a court ruling will force the county to re-examine that decision.

The county Board of Commissioners in April voted n in a split decision n to turn down the request of Newco Ventures to rezone 281 acres of land in northern Clayton County for use as a construction and demolition landfill.

Newco is an Atlanta-based firm providing fill dirt and rock for a fifth runway at Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport. The company hopes to eventually put the landfill on the site of a quarry between Lee's Mill and Flat Shoals roads now being used for fill material as part of the runway project.

Newco appealed the commission's decision in Clayton County Superior Court, saying the county violated the company's constitutional rights by not allowing them the best use of the land. The court remanded the case back to the county in its ruling, ordering that the commission reconsider the rezoning decision, according to county attorney Jack Hancock.

The commission will take up the contentious issue, which has often drawn crowds of angry residents from nearby neighborhoods, at its Aug. 19 meeting at 9 a.m. in the county Administration Building, 112 Smith St., Jonesboro.

Commission Chairman Crandle Bray doesn't think the court's decision locks the county into approving the landfill.

"I'm sure we'll take some action to zone the land to what we perceive to be constitutional," Bray said.

In addition to drawing fire from local residents, the landfill proposal has faced organized opposition from the Tri-County Community Association, a community advocacy group representing residents of Clayton, DeKalb and Fulton counties.

Landfills are seen as a kind of "dirty industry" that is often located in minority neighborhoods, according to local resident and Tri-County public relations chairwoman Tonya Lee-Willis. This situation seemed to be following that formula, she said.

Local residents and Tri-County representatives say that locating a landfill so close to a residential area will depress property values, harm the environment and, in general, negatively impact local residents. Some have suggested using the land left over from the quarry for other uses that won't have a negative impact on the community.

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

But David Flint, a Newco representative, maintains that the landfill n which will only allow construction and demolition debris and inert material, such as tree stumps and branches n would be a better neighbor than the quarry currently operated on the land. The landfill could be phased in over time as the quarry is mined for fill dirt for the Hartsfield fifth runway project, Flint said.

A quarry is a much more intense operation than a landfill, Flint explained, 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.

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