Landmark decision is reversed on appeal

By Michael Davis

The Georgia Court of Appeals reversed a decision of the Henry County Superior Court this week that said the county could not close a McDonough man's landfill based on the county's zoning ordinances.

The appeals court decision gives the county the go-ahead to revisit the case in Superior Court.

"The opinion says the trial court was wrong saying we can't shut it down based on the facts that were presented," said county attorney Patrick Jaugstetter.

"We still have a lawsuit and we're going to have to finish that lawsuit," he added.

Controversy over the Oak Grove Landfill belonging to former county commissioner A. L. "Mutt" Brannan has existed for years. In operation since the 1970s, the operation was not subject to county zoning ordinances when it opened.

Last year, the county asked the court to decide whether current zoning ordinances could be used to stop or limit its operations.

In a decision handed down in Henry County Superior Court by visiting Judge Stephen E. Boswell, he stated: "The Henry County ordinances including the Zoning Ordinance, at least to the extent that they would operate to deny the operation of Mr. Brannan's landfill, do not apply."

Jaugstetter said that up until the appeals court opinion came down Thursday, the county has not taken an official position in the case, only asking that the courts decide whether ordinances apply.

"The position now is that county ordinances can be used to either limit the use of the landfill or prohibit the use of the landfill," he said.

Nearby residents hope to see the landfill eventually shut down. Oak Grove Circle resident Leon Forrer was heartened by the court's decision. Opposed to "all the dust, the noise, the unsightliness of everything," he said he looks forward to a favorable decision from Superior Court.

Brannan's landfill is classified as "inert," where stumps, trees, concrete, bricks and other building material is dumped and buried.

Representing Brannan, attorney Bruce McFarland of the law firm Smith, Welch & Brittain, said that his client is willing to work with the county and the residents to minimize the impact of the landfill.

"We're hopeful that they will consider going to mediation and resolving this finally without stretching it out another three or four year," he said.

"We would like to find something that we could all agree to and I think there is some middle ground," he said, adding, "There are a number of things that could be done to minimize the impact to the neighbors, all of which Mr. Brannan is willing to do."