Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Oconee County Magistrate Court Fines Oconee Waste Transport $1,425 for Zoning Violation

Elder Reapported to IDA

Oconee County Magistrate Court Judge Eric W. Norris fined Oconee Waste Transport $1,425 last week for operating outside the business hours set forth in a rezone ordinance passed by the Board of Commissioners in September of 2010.

Elder 9/14/2012

Judge Norris had found after a hearing before him on Sept. 14 that OWT had violated the rezone ordinance, but Norris did not enter his final order and specify the fine until Thursday. The $1,425 fine includes court and administrative costs. The base fine was $1,000. Kathryn Zickert, OWT's attorney, told Judge Norris in a letter dated Sept. 18 that she plans to appeal his decision to the Oconee County Superior Court. Zickert is with the Atlanta law firm of Smith, Gambrell and Russell.

Matt Elder, president and chief executive officer of Oconee Waste Transport, is a member of the Oconee County Industrial Development Authority. The Board of Commissioners last night reappointed Elder to the Authority, with his term to end in December of 2014. The BOC first appointed him to IDA on Oct. 12, 2010.

Elder Said Must Move

Elder has sought and received a rezone from the Board of Commissioners in 2010 for 6.2 acres at 1750 Greensboro Highway just south of Watkinsville.

Elder told the BOC he needed the rezone from A-1 agricultural use to Office Business Park because he was being forced to move his Oconee Waste Transport business from its location on Experiment Station Road in downtown Watkinsville.

Water in wells on the property contain tetrachloroethylene, also known as perchloroethylene or PCE, and its degraded products, Kristen Ritter Rivera, geologist and compliance officer with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, told me back in March.

As PCE breaks down in the environment, it becomes very toxic, she said.

The contaminant comes from discharge from the predecessor of the AmeriPride plant next door to the OWT operation, according to EPD records.

Purchase Fell Through

AmeriPride first tried to purchase the Elder property, but that did not work out.

AmeriPride next tried to get access to the Elder property so it could construct a remediation system to draw water from four extraction wells and treat the water with granular activated carbon, according to Ritter.

AmeriPride received a permit in late April from the state to discharge the treated waste from the remediation system into the Oconee County sewer system.

Ritter told me in August that AmeriPride had been denied access to the Elder property for construction of the remediation system.

On Sept. 5 the EPD sent Elder and his father, Courtney M. Elder Sr., a copy of a consent order for “submission of a corrective action plan” for their property and threatened “additional enforcement” if they did not sign it.

Ritter told me yesterday that AmeriPride now has a signed access agreement from the Elders and is moving forward with plans to construct the building to house the filter system.

Julie Sanders, city clerk of Watkinsville, told me that AmeriPride has applied for and received a building permit for the facility.

Complaint in April

The Oconee County Code Enforcement Office cited Matt Elder for violation of the rezone ordinance 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.

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.

Judge Norris wrote in his final order that Elder had testified that “before 6:00 am every morning during the week two (2) garbage truck are driven off-site to begin garbage collection” and that, “Depending on traffic conditions, Defendant’s trucks may not get back to the site before 6:30 pm.”

Zickert had argued that the condition of zoning did “not preclude the events which led to the citation being issued,” namely the starting and departure of the garbage trucks.

She argued that since the business offices did not open until 7:30 a.m. and closed at 5:30 p.m., OWT was not violating the rezone ordinance.

Norris found that starting and driving the trucks off the site were covered by the stipulated hours of operation in the rezone and that OWT was in violation of the ordinance.

Laurie P. Lunsford, served as prosecuting attorney for Oconee County at the hearing.

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