The Oconee County Code Enforcement Office has cited Matt Elder for violation of the ordinance that rezoned 6.2 acres south of Watkinsville from Agricultural to Office Business Park in 2010 so Elder could locate his Oconee Waste Transport business there.
The county claims in the citation that Elder operated his business before 6 a.m. despite the specification in the ordinance that the hours of operation should only be from 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on weekdays and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. The facility must be closed on Sundays, according to the ordinance passed by the BOC at its meeting on Sept. 7, 2010.
The county issued the citation for a violation on July 11, 2012, following a complaint on April 9 by Angela Branton of 1110 Maple Circle that Elder was starting up trucks at 4:30 a.m. at the OWT site at 1750 Greensboro Highway, or SR 15.
|Oconee Waste Transport New Site|
In a preliminary hearing before Magistrate Judge Eric Norris on Aug. 17, Elder pleaded not guilty. Elder is scheduled to appear before Judge Norris for trial at 9:30 a.m. on Sept. 14.
Elder, whose full name is Courtney M. Elder Jr., is CEO of Oconee Waste Transport, according to the Georgia Secretary of State corporate database.
Elder also is a member of the Oconee County Industrial Development Authority, to which he was appointed by the Oconee County Board of Commissioners on Oct. 12, 2010.
Branton lives at the rear of a small subdivision of homes in the $75,000 to $150,000 range off Green Ferry Road. Her property abuts that of Elder, and she was one of those who spoke out at the BOC on Sept. 7, 2010, opposing the rezone.
A concern of the nine citizens who spoke against the rezone was noise and disruption of their neighborhood.
The Planning Department staff had recommended that hours of operation be restricted to 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays.
Elder wanted to be able to operate at 6 a.m. and until 6:30 p.m. on weekdays. Jon Williams from Williams and Associates Land Planners, representing Elder, made the argument at the Sept. 7, 2010that Elder needed to start moving trucks off the lot at 6 a.m.
Elder minimized the number of trucks that would be coming and going on his site.
On a typical day, “three or four of them tops leave the yard,” Elder said, and some unspecified number return.
The Oconee County Board of Commissioners voted 3-1 at that Sept. 7 meeting to set aside the Future Development Map it approved in March of 2008 and the rezone 6.2 acres at 1750 Greensboro Highway just south of Watkinsville so Elder could move his Oconee Waste Transport business from downtown Watkinsville.
Commissioner Chuck Horton cast the dissenting vote.
A number of the citizens who spoke at the hearing, including Branton, argued that the county had made a promise to its citizens when it approved the Future Development Map.
The BOC approved the rezone after Elder threatened to move his business outside the county if he didn’t get to use the land he owned south of Watkinsville.
Elder said he had to move his business from his location at 1131 Experiment Station Road, across from the county jail, because of contamination on that site.
Elder submitted a letter to the county from AmeriPride Services Inc. saying that the property is contaminated as a result of past dry cleaning activities carried out on the AmeriPride-owned property next door.
But Elder has not moved from the property, and he continues to use it for OWT operations.
Water In Wells on Property Contaminated
Water in wells on the property contains tetrachloroethylene, also known as perchloroethylene or PCE, and its degraded products, according to Kristen Ritter Rivera, geologist and compliance officer with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.
|Experiment Station Road OWT Site|
As PCE breaks down in the environment, it becomes very toxic, she said.
Ritter told me back in March that AmeriPride did purchase 1.5 acres at 1141 Experiment Station Road from Elder and thought it was getting the second parcel of 2.4 acres at 1131 Experiment Station Road.
In the end, she said, the transaction did not produce the expected outcome.
The deed for the sale filed in the office of the Clerk of Superior Court for Oconee County on Nov. 4, 2010, refers to “two contiguous lots or parcels of land,” but it also says the total size is “1.49 acres, more or less.”
AmeriPride was represented by attorney Mark L. Elliott of Troutman Sanders in Atlanta.
Oconee County tax records show that AmeriPride paid Elder $712,500 for the 1.5-acre property at 1141 Experiment Station Road. The property is valued at $99,120, according to the current tax records.
The records show that the 2.4 acres at 1131 remain in the name Courtney M. Elder Sr. and Courtney M. Elder Jr. That property is valued at $131,807.
AmeriPride denied Access to Contaminated Property
After the purchase fell through, AmeriPride tried to get access to the property at 1131 so it could construct a remediation system to draw water from four extraction wells on the two properties and treat the water with granular activated carbon, according to Ritter. AmeriPride has a permit from the state to discharge the treated waste from the remediation system into the Oconee County sewer system.
Ritter told me on Tuesday of last week that AmeriPride has been denied access to the Elder property for construction of the remediation system.
|Remediation Site to Left|
“Attorneys for AmeriPride and attorneys for the Elders cannot reach an agreement,” she said.
On July 7, 1997, when the EPD issued an Administrative Order to American Linen Supply Company, the former name of AmeriPride, requiring it to submit plans for cleaning up the contamination, it said American Linen had to seek access to property it did not own to clean up the site and tell the EPD if it could not get that access.
Ritter said AmeriPride has submitted evidence of its unsuccessful efforts to gain access to the Elder property and that EPD is now deciding what to do next. She would not say what she has recommended to her superiors at EPD.
Details of Complaint Filed by County
According to the complaint form in the Oconee County Code Enforcement office, Branton first made her complaint on April 9, 2012. She said simply that OWT was “starting up trash trucks at 4:30 a.m.”
According to that form, Code Enforcement spoke with Branton by phone the following day. She said that she was being awakened by “trash trucks starting early in the morning and that she could provide dates and times that this occurred.”
On April 17, according to the complaint form, a code enforcement officer met with Elder to discuss the problem. Elder said he would line the back of his property with containers “and park trucks close to gate,” according to the document.
According to the form, Elder “stated his trucks musts leave early to service certain sites.”
The Complaint Form, which I obtained through an open records request, was initialed by MB.
Code Enforcement officer Matt Brock signed the citation issued to Elder on July 11, 2012. It said Elder had violated “Exhibit A to Zoning Amendment #5790–Item 8.”
Exhibit A to the ordinance approved by the BOC on Sept. 7, 2010, rezoning the farmland for Elder to build his transfer facility, stipulates, in Item 8, the hours of operation of the facility.
It says: “The hours of operation shall only be from 6:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on weekdays and from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Saturday. Operation of the facility on Sunday is prohibited.”