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Hall commission OKs zoning for landfill expansion

Composting operations cannot be started

POSTED: November 8, 2012 11:59 p.m.

Hall County residents, many from the Southside of Gainesville, attend the Hall County Board of Commissioners meeting on Thursday evening at the new Hall County Government Center. The commissioners were expected to vote on a private landfill proposal that has drawn fierce opposition from Southside Gainesville residents.

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Despite fervent objections from residents, the Hall County Board of Commissioners voted Thursday night to OK a rezoning to allow for a proposed landfill expansion off Monroe Drive near U.S. 129/Athens Highway.

The vote was 3-1, with Chairman Tom Oliver and Commissioners Scott Gibbs and Billy Powell in favor and Commissioner Ashley Bell opposed. Commissioner Craig Lutz did not attend.

Crowd members instantly grumbled about the vote as they stood up to leave.

“I can’t believe y’all just did that to us,” yelled Carol Leverette, who lives near the site. “Y’all ought to come out and live where we live.”

DOJI Properties LLC, which lists J.A. Walters as its registered agent, succeeded in getting the 51-acre property rezoned to create retail/

office/industrial outparcels along U.S. 129 and Monroe Drive and expand adjoining property that includes an auto salvage site and landfill.

DOJI’s regional impact application with the Georgia Department of Community Affairs cites the project name as Gainesville Salvage Disposal, which sits on property owned by Gov. Nathan Deal and Ken Cronan. The auto salvage business and the property it sits on are being held in a blind trust while Deal is governor.

The proposal drew fierce opposition from its introduction to the Hall County Planning Commission in October, with residents complaining that landfills already envelop the area and that the air is filled with a sickening stench.

Their protests continued Thursday night with a large showing in the commission’s new meeting room at the Hall County Government Center, 2875 Browns Bridge Road.

“I think that the county has to become more conscious and sensitive to making sure that no landfills — none — are placed in residential communities,” said the Rev. Rose Johnson. “You don’t have the right to take away our right to breathe fresh air.”

Gainesville Councilwoman Myrtle Figueras also implored the commission to deny the petition.

“Gainesville has a comprehensive plan ... and we have been trying so hard to make U.S. 129 South be an area where businesses would like to locate,” she said. “If we have the expansion of one more landfill, businesses will be discouraged to come to the area.

“That is sad. I don’t want that to be.”

In asking for the denial, Michelle Lowe Mintz of Concerned Citizens of Gainesville-Hall County said, “Stop this repeated assault on our air and on our land.

“We want you, with us, to send a strong message to these businesses that our community is not the county dumping ground.”

The commission’s approval came with conditions, including that no composting operation can be started.

“From what we’ve heard (regarding) concerns of the neighborhood with the smells, that (condition) should take that (problem) away,” said Brian Rochester of Rochester & Associates, which applied for the rezoning on behalf of DOJI.

Defending the request, Rochester said, “You are not granting a permit to build a landfill. I think that is a very, very important issue that needs to be considered here.

“All you’re doing tonight is deciding (whether this) is appropriate zoning for this piece of property. There’s still a process we have to go through ... for this to be approved, from the county level and the state level.”

He also told the commission that “my client is talking about developing outparcels that will be closer to this potential landfill than anyone else. He has a very high investment to ensure that this project works.”

Bell, whose district includes the property, made an unsuccessful motion to deny the application.

“I can think of so many times when you have people come upset about zonings in their neighborhood,” he said, addressing the rest of the commission. “None of them were as intrusive as this. We went through hours of debate over a dog kennel. ... We’re here on a landfill and we’re not giving it the same consideration.”


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