Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Oconee County Commissioners Turned Down Garrett Request For Recycling Facility–Slowly

160 Plus Attended

Forty-three second elapsed between the time Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chairman Melvin Davis called for a motion last night and when Commissioner Jim Luke offered one.

And 11 seconds elapsed between the time when Luke made his motion and Commissioner John Daniell seconded it.

The unanimous vote to deny Bernard Garrett his request for a special use permit to put a materials recovery facility at 1441 Dials Mill Road then came quickly.

The second motion, by Daniell, seconded by Commissioner Mark Saxon, also took little time to emerge and also passed quickly and unanimously.

That second motion denied Garrett’s request for a hardship variance to operate his facility on what the county designates as a Minor Collector.

Following that second vote, Chairman Davis called for a five-minute recess, and the audience started to breath normally again.

Most of the 160 plus in attendance left before the meeting resumed about 10 minutes later.

Other Action

When the commissioners returned to action, they appointed both of the citizens who had applied for the single opening on the Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir Management Board to that body.

That action returned to the management board former Commissioner Chuck Horton, who had been removed from the body in February, and appointed John Caudill anew. Both will serve as alternates to voting members.

The BOC also spent $87,500 to place a protective easement in perpetuity on a 43-acre farm owned by William D. and Kathy H. Shelnutt as part of the county’s farmland protection program. The farm is at 2811 New High Shoals Road west of Watkinsville.

The commissioners reaffirmed their policy that future capacity in the county’s two sewage treatment facilities is to be devoted to commercial use and decided to classify assisted living facilities as commercial, rather than residential, users.

The BOC took no action on a beer and wine license request for University 16 Stadium Theatre being built in Epps Bridge Centre after being informed that the proper time between application and decision had not elapsed.

Courtroom Filled

The voting on the Garrett requests took only a little more than two minutes, even with the pauses.

Before the votes, the commissioners heard 10 minutes of presentation by Planning Department staff, 40 minutes of arguments from the Bernard Garrett family and its representatives, and nearly the same amount of time of arguments against the proposals from citizens.

The commissioners also asked 35 minutes worth of questions of county staff, of the Garretts and of the Garretts’ representatives.

The commissioners had moved the meeting from their usual meeting room on the second floor of the courthouse to Courtroom 1 on the third floor because they anticipated the large crowd that developed.

The courtroom was filled to capacity, with extras lined up along the side aisles and backing up into the hallway.

Garretts Repeated Presentations

The presentation by the Garretts was in part a replay of the presentation they had made to the Planning Commission on April 15, when that body recommended 9-2 that the BOC approve the special use permit.

Katie Garrett, 21, daughter of Bernard Garrett, began by tracking the farming history of the family. Simon Garrett, 32, argued that the county needed the kind of recycling facility he and his family want to operate at the Dials Mill Road property as a spinoff of the family’s Roll Off Systems.

Land Planner Ken Beall took more time last night than he did at the Planning Commission meeting, ending with a harsh attack on the citizens who were about to follow him to argue against the requests.

Beall said that the Commission was going to be presented with lots of petitions against the proposal, but he said many of those who signed didn’t know what they were signing. He also attacked a postcard sent out by opponents of the proposed facility.

“Petitions are not worth the paper they are written on,” he said.

Opposition Organized

The opposition to the MRF, as a materials recovery facility is called, were not well organized at the Planning Commission and focused largely on problems of traffic on Dials Mill Road that would result from it.

Last night, the group had a highly choreographed presentation, with six speakers making different parts of the case. The focus was more on the facility itself and less on traffic.

Joshua Sharp, a chemist at the University of Georgia, repeatedly stated that the proposed facility presented a danger to the neighbors because materials brought in for sorting would include household waste, including fecal matter from dirty diapers and other sources.

George Prather took a down-home approach, saying he represented the owners of the neighboring farm, and he was disappointed to see what already had taken place on the Garrett land, where the family already is operating what the state calls a Recovered Materials Processing Facility.

Commissioners Concerned About Roads

Many of the questions asked by the commissioners focused on the roads, with Chairman Davis prodding Emil Beshara, county Public Works Department director, to estimate costs of upgrading Dials Mill Road for the facility.

Beshara only hazarded guesses, based on different scenarios, including widening and complete replacement.

Commissioner Margaret Hale was more concerned about household waste.

Simon Garrett said it was not his business model to bring in large amounts of household waste to the site, but he acknowledged that some would be included in shipments sorted there.

None of the commissioners explained her or his vote either before or once it was made, so it isn’t possible to know what led to the unanimous negative votes. Chairman Davis did not vote, as he is allowed to vote by law only in the case of a tie.

Management Board Appointments

The appointment of Caudill and Horton to the Hard Labor Creek management board was a surprise, as the BOC had advertised for only one citizen to join the Board as an alternate to one of the three voting members.

The BOC instead selected Caudill to serve as an alternate to Jim Luke and Horton to serve as an alternate to County Administrative Officer Jeff Benko.

Caudill and Horton will replace Public Works Director Beshara and Strategic and Long Range Planning Director Wayne Provost as alternates.

Utility Department Director Chris Thomas will serve as an alternate to Commissioner Saxon, a voting member.

The appointments return a citizen to the management board, which has not been the case since Hank Huckaby resigned in July of 2011 to assume the chancellorship of the University System of Georgia.

1 comment:

Dark Horse said...

Lee- I really like your reporting. Your reporting is the only I have read in recent memory in which a hidden agenda cannot be found. You should be very proud of the job you do. Thank you for your no bias and no BS approach.
Almost everything we read today in the media serves to divide us and pigeon hole us as either Conservatives or Liberals. I think the reality is that most open minded people can be both. Your style of reporting simply presents facts in a manner that allows people to make their own informed decisions. For that reason, I am a dedicated reader. Thanks again.