Hall County Board of Commissioners work session
When: 3 p.m., with executive session at 2:30 p.m.
Where: Hall County Government Center, 2875 Browns Bridge Road, Gainesville
A week after Hall County gave its written response to residents sickened by the smell of decaying food waste at a landfill, county officials consider the case looked into, investigated and closed, complete with remedial steps.
The county’s review and response, written by County Administrator Randy Knighton and released on Nov. 19, acknowledges zoning laws were broken, but it doesn’t mention who broke the laws and what county officials did and didn’t do to help.
None of the Hall County commissioners returned one of several attempts to reach them for comment on Monday. Tom Oliver, chairman of the board of commissioners, agreed Friday to a sit-down interview and canceled on Monday.
Land and business owner of the Gainesville Waste and Recycling Landfill Ken Cronan is only referred to as “property owner” in Knighton’s report.
Cronan received an initial permit for the landfill site in 2010, said Melanie Henry, acting program manager of the solid waste management program for the Georgia Environmental Protection Division. Cronan is also business partners with Gov. Nathan Deal, whose business interests are in a blind trust while he is governor. In late 2011 and early 2012, Cronan applied for and received modifications to his environmental permits to allow composting and food waste composting at the landfill.
“We require county verification,” said Jeffrey Cown, assistant chief of the land protection branch of the EPD.
Two letters from Oliver not mentioned in the county response are dated Nov. 8, 2011, and addressed to Cown, then-program manager of the solid waste management program. Oliver wrote that the proposed composting complies with local zoning and land use ordinances and he reviewed the county’s Solid Waste Management Plan in his official capacity and determined the company’s composting operation is consistent with that plan.
“Not everything goes to the board,” Knighton said.
Commissioner Ashley Bell, referring to a single letter, said the letter from Oliver to the agency was not authorized by the board. Knighton said the letters didn’t go through a formal approval process.
“The only thing that we had was (the property was an) inert landfill and, to us, composting was a part of an inert landfill, like limbs and leaves and all this,” Oliver said in a recent Times interview. “I was under the impression if you’re going to bring food in you have to have a totally different landfill.”
“I had no idea there was an issue there because I didn’t have any idea they were bringing outside food in,” Oliver added.
The property was zoned as a “construction/demolition and inert solid waste landfill” in May of 2002. A 2003 rezoning expanded the site by more than 13 acres that “were left out of the 2002 application.” The zoning didn’t change in 2007, when Cronan first applied for a permit. The zoning only allowed industrial, construction and demolition waste. Cronan also started excavating the old landfill under the new one he had a permit for, also a violation.
“I don’t feel like there’s any blame on anyone here,” Cronan told WSB-TV on Wednesday. “I have to say it may be a misunderstanding of some point.”
Cronan did not return calls from The Times.