Scheduled vote on landfill moved up

Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Map shows the location of the 600 acres where a landfill is being proposed just south Cornersville. Former County Commissioner Sam Smith owns the 332.7-acre tract with the balance of the property reportedly being sold by Mickey Lamar Cantrell. The site lies north of Richland Creek, which is the chief source of water for residents of Pulaski.

The schedule leading to a vote by Marshall County commissioners on a proposed landfill just south of Cornersville has been shortened and a couple of county leaders say a quick resolution may be seen as putting the controversy to rest for at least two years.

County Commission Chair-woman Mary Ann Neill has separated the landfill vote from other commission business so that it's to be decided on May 22 -- instead of May 27 -- when the rest of the commission's monthly business will be conducted after Memorial Day.

That means commissioners are to vote on Waste Management's request for permission for another landfill in the county about seven weeks from today.

"It does seem quick, but it also prevents it from being drug out for a long time," County Solid Waste Director Morgan Thomas said about one of two votes the commission has on the landfill.

The second vote is on whether the land should be rezoned from an agricultural classification to a zone that permits landfills.

The commission's chairwoman points out that, politically, defeating the landfill on May 22 will probably put the matter to rest for at least two years. That's because rezoning requests can't be repeated until after one year has passed once they're defeated.

"It would not seem likely that this commission would change its mind in 12 months, but there could be a different commission," Neill said, noting that there's a county commission election in August 2010.

If Waste Management loses the vote on May 22, Neill said they may decide to wait until after the next election. "If the temperature's not right for you, you may wait," she said.

Imposing the one-year waiting period was a result of a commission decision a few years ago.

As for why the commission's regular meeting date of May 27 was adjusted to May 22 for the landfill vote, Neill explained, "It was a decision our attorney asked me to make." County Attorney Lee Bowles has travel plans that have been set for months, Neill said, "so, I kind of needed to accommodate that." Neill said commissioners would want their lawyer available for the vote on a landfill.

Regardless of the reason, Neill said, "It's all relative, and if I were looking at it from the perspective of the public, their fight would be over within 60 days. If it passes then it has to go to the state."

Meanwhile, there's been no clear statement from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation about whether its Division of Solid Waste has approved or disapproved Waste Management's request for permission to start landfilling on the last eight to 11 unused acres at Cedar Ridge Landfill, just west of Lewisburg on Mooresville Highway.

The request was forwarded to TDEC from the Maury-Marshal Regional Solid Waste Board, which simply applied the facts of the request to a solid waste disposal plan for both counties.

If county commissioners here approve the request for a new landfill, it must be sent to the regional board, which will compare the landfill request to the requirements of the regional disposal plan.

Meanwhile, a 30-day public comment period on the landfill proposal starts Friday. County Mayor Joe Boyd Liggett is to receive written comments at his office in the Marshall County Courthouse Annex on Lewisburg's public square until 4 p.m. May 4, the first Monday of next month.

Between now and May 22, nine meetings are scheduled to consider the landfill request.

FIRST, there's an organizational meeting at 5 p.m. Monday, April 7, of the Marshall County Negotia-ting Team on how to write a contract with Waste Management on the proposed landfill.

While the commission's chairwoman has heard no support for permitting a second landfill in the county, she explained that the county has greater bargaining power at negotiations before the commission votes on May 22.

"Somebody had to go into this with the idea that if it does pass we have to have the best contract available," Neill said. "Now, we're in the driver's seat. We want to be sure that if we do get another landfill that it's a financial enhancement for our budget."

That's not so with the contract for Cedar Ridge Landfill, she said.

"That contract is dated and there are some points where some of the fees should have had escalation clauses," Neill said.

"I'm not for another landfill, but if it comes, we want the best we can get from it," she continued about the negotiating committee that's to meet on the second floor of the Courthouse Annex.

"The contract will be sent to the solid waste committee for tweaking, from which it would be sent to the full commission," Neill said.

The SECOND of the six meetings leading to May 22 is at 6 p.m. Monday, April 7, in the Lewisburg Middle School Auditorium where the county commission's Solid Waste Committee is to conduct its regularly scheduled monthly meeting. Waste Management's request was officially filed with that committee because, procedurally, it's to make recommendations to the commission on these subjects.

"The Solid Waste Committee will have to send this to the commission," Thomas said, noting that "last time" the request was sent "without a recommendation."

Last time, the request was for expansion of the existing landfill and the request was constrained by terms in the contract negotiated more than 20 years ago.

A THIRD meeting leading to the May 22 vote is at 5 p.m. April 10, a Thursday when the negotiating committee is to meet with landfill representatives "to hear their proposal," Neill said. This meeting is in the Courthouse Annex like all negotiating sessions.

The FOURTH of the nine meetings is at 6 p.m. April 15 in the Courthouse Annex, where county planning commissioners will consider Waste Management's request for rezoning of the land owned by Sam Smith and Mickey Cantrell.

The FIFTH meeting is 5 p.m. April 17, a Thursday, when the negotiating team will have had a week to study Waste Management's proposal and be ready for open deliberations on the proposals and suggested modifications.

One week later, at 5 p.m. on April 24, the SIXTH meeting before the May 22 vote is when the negotiators are to work out the differences between proposals from Waste Management and the committee. It's comprised of Neill, and Commissioners Joe B. Brandon, Don Ledford and Richard Medley with County Mayor Joe Boyd Liggett.

A SEVENTH gathering will be a public hearing conducted by the county in accordance with a state law on standards for construction, operation and maintenance of a landfill. It's to be in the Lewisburg Middle School Auditorium. The law addresses environmental, economic and social aspects of landfills.

The EIGHTH meeting leading to the commission vote is at 6 p.m. on May 8 in the Lewisburg Middle School Auditorium where the Solid Waste Committee will consider the landfill request and probably vote on a recommendation to the commission.

A NINTH gathering is at 5:30 p.m. May 22 on the second floor of the Courthouse Annex where the county commission will conduct its own public hearing on the rezoning request. This gathering precedes the commission meeting that's scheduled to start at 6 p.m.

"And if the zoning passes, it has to go to the BZA for a special use permit," Neill said of the county's Board of Zoning Appeals, a quasi-judicial panel that applies another set of guidelines on such requests.

Its authority must be faced only if the property is approved for use as a landfill. That would be after May 22.

Landfills require a special use permit. While the use of land for a landfill is categorized in the zoning resolution, this specific use is subject to additional requirements that are not exactly defined.

"The BZA has the authority to restrict it," Neill said on how the board can list special requirements. "It does not have authority to stop it."

Stopping landfill operations, however, has been accomplished in other jurisdictions. Marshall County adopted a restriction used elsewhere. Landfilling is prohibited within two miles of schools, hospitals, nursing homes, parks, churches and day care centers of a certain size. That requirement was used in Davidson County.

In Bedford County, the commission set a host fee that was seen by Waste Management as so high as to be prohibitive. It has kept Quail Hollow Landfill near Normandy dormant for years. If market conditions change, it could be reopened.