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Landfill hearing set for Nov. 17

Friday, October 31, 2008

Lewisburg's City Council will accept public comments about the proposed expansion of Cedar Ridge Landfill during a hearing 17 days from tonight in City Hall.

The hearing, at 6 p.m., Monday, Nov. 17, is when area residents are to say whether expansion will be consistent with eight standards for landfills as set forth in state law.

Generally, those standards are to be sure the landfill's operation will be in the best interests of the health, safety and welfare of the general public. The standards also address economic and environmental issues. They're to be the basis of a decision by the Council when it meets at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 18, to vote for or against the expansion.

Under state law, Lewisburg's Council acquired authority to grant or deny Waste Management Inc.'s request for permission to use more land at Cedar Ridge Landfill for disposal of garbage.

In compliance with the law, Lewisburg called for written public comments during a 30-day period that ended several weeks ago. The nature of those comments led to decisions made Tuesday night.

"We had 44 letters in favor of Cedar Ridge Landfill. ... 18 asking for a public hearing," Mayor Bob Phillips said. "In all honesty, only two said why."

Reasons for a hearing are to be stated in the letters, Phillips said.

He pointed out that Waste Management had an open house at the landfill and noted: "Many of the letters were generated there at the open house."

Notably absent from the audience at Lewisburg's Council meeting on Tuesday were the green T-shirts bearing the words "Stop the Landfill." Instead, there were a number of people sporting paper nametags saying "Support Cedar Ridge."

The landfill has been growing for decades on several previously licensed parts of the property. The last permitted dumping grounds could be full in less than a year. Expansion to a newly permitted area might allow continued operations longer than five years.

Responding to Phillips' description of the letters received during the 30-day comment period was Councilwoman Quinn Brandon, a practicing attorney who quoted the law.

"Instances of doubt (about the public's request for a hearing) should be resolved with a public hearing," Brandon said.

Phillips has supported that approach during two published interviews and he said so again Tuesday.

"I think we should hold a hearing and get both sides," Brandon said.

Councilman Robin Minor reported he's received seven phone calls from people favoring expansion of the landfill and one from someone against expansion.

Phillips repeated another position: The Council should take steps to resolve the issue so it can pay attention to the wider variety of topics. Tuesday night, that included economic development, filling an empty seat on the panel, and various citizen concerns including speed limits and business hours when beer may be served at restaurants.

Furthermore, the Council had a workshop on July 15 with more than two dozen people attending, man of them participating in a wide-ranging and open discussion on landfill issues, the mayor said.

"Everyone was given an opportunity to comment," Philips said.

Brandon countered: "We've not had a public discussion on compliance points."

Cedar Ridge Landfill has been the subject of orders from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation that have taken Waste Management inc. to task on environmental regulation issues. The company has said it's dealing with a landfill that was first developed by another company. That led to compliance challeges and those are being addressed, the company has said.

"Do you feel like there is a significant call for a public hearing?" Phillips asked, and Brandon replied, "I do."

She made the motion that was seconded by Councilman Phil Sanders.

The vote was 3-1 with Councilman Hershel Davis voting no. Minor voted with Brandon and Sanders to hold the hearing.

"We owe that to go over the eight points," Brandon said as the panel turned to calendars to set the dates for the hearing and a time for the Council to consider the eight points in comparison to the comments and the leaders' analysis of the expansion plan's compliance with the standards set forth in the state law.

John P. Williams, attorney for Waste Management, attended the Council's meeting with other leaders of the company and when asked for a comment, he said the company will probably make a presentation during the hearing and that the city is entitled to do what it's planning. Waste Management "just wants to participate," Williams said.