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Foes of landfill win first round
Planning board frowns on plan
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Forsyth County News
Discussion about a proposed landfill in south Forsyth turned trashy Tuesday, with one opponent toting his own garbage to the meeting.

The Forsyth County Planning Commission voted 5-0 against Atlanta Road LLC’s request for rezoning and a conditional use permit for a construction and demolition landfill.

Atlanta Road sought to rezone about 24 acres (click for map) south of North Old Atlanta Road, between Ga. 400 and Ronald Reagan Boulevard, from residential and commercial to a heavy industrial district.

The planning board’s recommendation shifts to the Forsyth County commission, which could decide the matter next month.

Gray Smith was one of many county residents who spoke against the application. Smith brought along a large bag of debris and garbage, the type which he said would end up in the landfill.

“I submit to you that in my experience in using these landfills, 38 years in the tree business commercial and residential in the Atlanta area, probably about 10 percent of your truckloads are going to be ‘ooey gooey’ truckloads,” Smith said.

Barry Russell, planning board chairman, attempted to stop Smith from emptying the bag. He was eventually allowed to dump a few items, including leaves and a McDonald’s bag, onto a blue tarp spread across the floor.

“In that bag is insecticide cans, motor oil cans, along with the new hi-tech light bulbs that are full of mercury,” Smith said.

“People with the best of intentions when they are taking something to the landfill, and they have leaves and sticks and whatnot, they might take a light bulb and put it in there not knowing ... there’s also a small battery in there for a riding lawnmower.”

Many who spoke against the landfill told the planning board they worried it would pollute the La Farge quarry across the street.

In January, the county commission discussed the possibility of eventually turning the quarry site into a reservoir for drinking water.

The company hoping to open the landfill, Billy Gerrell Grading, was represented by attorney Emory Lipscomb, who has said the site would accept only construction trash such as building materials.

Lipscomb said the materials Smith talked about would not be allowed in the landfill and that the Environmental Protection Division requires that someone certified to supervise landfills watch over the site during operation hours.

“We all know that we can violate the law,” Lipscomb said. “We can go out here and drive on the wrong side of the road or we can do a lot of things and violate the law. But if we do that, we’re subject to punishment under those laws that we’re violating. That’s the same for a landfill as it is for anything else.”

If the EPD requires it, Lipscomb said, his client is willing to install an additional clay liner, as well as a synthetic one, to protect the site.

“You’re going to need these types of facilities because this county is going to continue to grow,” Lipscomb said. “It’s a long ways from this part of the county and south of here to the landfills that are located to the north.

“Those will fill up ... this is just like the rock quarry. And garbage collection is something where you’ve got people you’re going to have need to do this kind of work.”

Lipscomb confirmed his client has past due property taxes, which was not the case when the application was filed.

According to planning commission regulations, applications filed by those who owe taxes can not be considered.

Jack Gleason also spoke against the proposal on behalf of Smart Growth Forsyth.

He listed various concerns the group has about the site, including that it falls in the Big Creek small water supply watershed and on a minor aquifer recharge zone, which is noted in the county’s comprehensive plan.

“If the aquifer becomes polluted, and I quote, ‘It is virtually impossible to decontaminate it,’” he said.

The property also is adjacent to an area identified as being highly susceptible to pollution, Gleason said, and within an area identified as having a severely restricted hazardous materials handling designation.