Leaders face night of wine and garbage

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Marshall County Commission meeting Monday night might be dubbed the night of wine and garbage, given a couple of important topics for the county's future.

"We're trying to find anything that would bring tourism and new business to Marshall County and vineyards have become more and more popular," Commissioner Mary Ann Neill said.

Vineyards and wineries are both tourist attractions and agri-businesses that are seen as a way to improve the economy and provide employment, according to economic developers working for the state and county. As a result, commissioners are being asked to accommodate those farms and businesses.

"We don't have any regulations now" that address vineyards, wineries and wine tasting businesses, Neill said Thursday. "And so we are doing that to make it easier for someone to move here in the hope of drawing some interest."

County commissioners convene at 6 p.m. Monday in the second floor conference room of the Marshall County Courthouse Annex on the corner of West Commerce Street and First Avenue.

Commissioners have another recommendation from the Planning Commission.

"We're adding a defined buffer for landfills," explained Neill, a member of the county Planning Commission that's recommending several changes to the zoning code.

Buffers are spaces between landfills and anything else. They're to provide a barrier, or distance between what the public would otherwise see. Sometimes it's to provide privacy for residents of a subdivision. Usually, it's to hide something.

"At the present time there is no defined buffer" between landfills and the public highway, Neill said.

Asked if that's not addressed in state law, she replied, "They've got more on the height."

Most county residents are aware of a continuing issue concerning the Cedar Ridge Landfill west of Lewisburg. It's whether the state will allow Waste Management to cap a sinkhole and bury garbage over the last dumping place on its property.

"There is just no way to speculate when a final decision will be announced," Meg Lockhart, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation said Thursday.

Without knowing if the landfill may continue to operate - perhaps for seven years - or whether it must close this year because it's running out of space, town and county officials have been taking steps to be prepared if the landfill closes.

The county's Solid Waste Committee has a short-term plan ready and it's preparing a long-range plan. Lewisburg obtained bids on garbage collection and disposal services for city residents and those in Chapel Hill and Cornersville.

Lewisburg Councilman Ronald McRady on Tuesday night last week called for a joint meeting of the Council and the Commission on Monday. Out of concern for the capacity of the meeting room, some officials thought about moving the commission's monthly meeting to the Circuit Courtroom in the Courthouse in the middle of Lewisburg's public square.

That plan was abandoned, in part, because public hearings on zoning changes had been advertised as set for the Courthouse Annex.

Ultimately, it doesn't matter, because there's a non-voting workshop for commissioners after the monthly meeting. Even if elected officials from Lewisburg, Cornersville and Chapel Hill were to attend in joint session with the commission, the commission might not be able to vote on a solid waste disposal plan. The agenda had been set and some leaders refrain from voting on matters that have just been introduced.

"The work session is an open meeting," Commission Chairman Billy Spivey said Wednesday while talking about the Monday night meetings. "Any and all people can come."

Neill agreed.

"There's no reason why these issues could not be considered during the workshop," she said.

However, she expressed concern for how much work could be accomplished if all four elected panels met together, noting that after elected officials, their aides, and the general public are counted, there may be 65 or 70 people attending.

Still, the discussion is worthwhile, Neill said.

"I highly encourage communication because it will help us if everybody knows where we are," she said. "Then we could move forward in a uniform direction."