By Ed Brock
Impassioned speeches by people like Silvester Bradford were not enough to prevent the approval of a rezoning request by landfill owner Newco Ventures, LLC.
"You cannot take over 400 acres and make us suffer so a company can have some financial gains," Bradford told the Clayton County Commission Tuesday morning. "We live here, we are part of this county ? If we have to go to the Supreme Court, we will go there."
Newco had already taken their case to Clayton County Superior Court in April when the commission rejected their initial appeal to rezone part of the 281 acres they own in north Clayton County. The court had remanded back to the county for reconsideration of the request to rezone about 14 acres of the land for heavy industrial use with a conditional use permit for a landfill.
This time, the commission granted the request. During his presentation to the commission at Tuesday's meeting, attorney David Flint reiterated the company's argument that to deny their request would be unconstitutional.
"None of these properties can be developed according to their current zoning (residential and light industrial)," Flint said.
And residents of the community around the landfill, including Bradford, and representatives of groups like the Tri-County Community Association, Inc. and the NAACP reasserted their complaints about the landfill.
The landfill is environmentally unfriendly and the county should instead consider buying it for green-space, landfill opponents said.
"What has changed, or should I say, what has changed hands to change your vote," TRICCA member Alita Knox said prior to the vote. "Newco's poor planning on not having access to the property doesn't justify a landfill for Clayton County."
NAACP Clayton County Branch President Dexter Matthews said there is a trend of putting unfavorable developments in African American communities.
"This would not be fair to the residents who already have to put up with the airport noise. Now they have to put up with the stink of the landfield. Newco says it won't stink but we don't believe that," Matthews said. "We want a good quality of life like other people."
In rebuttal, Flint said the landfill already exists around the 14 acres in question Tuesday.
"To deny the application is a taking of land and denial of due process," Flint said. "It's wrong."
Just prior to the vote, Commission Chairman Crandle Bray also showed some emotion as he explained that if the commission denies Newco's request and the court system finds the decision to be unconstitutional for a second time then there would be no zoning at all on the property.
"Then you'd all show up at my office and say, ?Crandle, you've
done us an injustice,'" Bray said. "It would be nice if I could buy it for green space but you probably won't give me enough money for that. It sounds good, it just doesn't work out that way sometimes."
But two members of the commission still voted to deny the request, Carl Rhodenizer and Virginia Gray.
"Personally I feel what is unconstitutional is the way this application has been approached, piecemeal," Gray said. "I know you have to use your land but imposing these kinds of conditions on these people is not your constitutional right."
Previously Flint said 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.
Before voting to approve the application, Commissioner Charley Griswell added the condition that the CUP for use of the land as a landfill will expire in three years. That effectively put a cap on how long it can be used as a quarry before the option to use it as a landfill expires.
Now that the commission has passed the application TRICCA plans to initiate a Facility Issues Negotiation with Newco through the Environmental Protection Agency, TRICCA member Tanya Lee-Willis said.