Commission to consider request for permits for construction, debris landfills

An effort to reopen a Dixon Airline Road landfill sidelined by the Augusta Commission earlier this year has resurfaced, in parts, one of which goes for approval Tuesday.

 

In February, the commission resisted a request by attorney Wright McLeod, representing owner Kirk Laney, to permit a construction and demolition landfill at the 150-acre former mine, which former owner Jeffrey Harris had used as a dump for inert waste such as yard debris.

At the time, Environmental Services Director Mark Johnson said the addition of a second construction debris landfill would divert revenue from the city landfill and was prohibited by the existing solid waste management plan.

The commission OK’d starting the process of revising the extensive plan, which goes for renewal next year, but it’s a lengthy process and bids to revise it are not due until September, Interim Environmental Services Director Lori Videtto told commissioners last week.

Videtto took over when Johnson resigned in June after being placed on leave for his involvement in the misuse of Augusta equipment on private property in Lincoln County. Some commissioners called for an audit of landfill operations, but in July the commission instead approved a comprehensive review of all Environmental Services finances, contracts and operations.

McLeod told a commission committee last week his new request – to add construction and debris landfills to the city’s list of permitted activities in heavy industry zones – is vital to the project moving forward.

His group is “trying to stay ahead of the curve” in order to “bring industrial private enterprise back to Augusta-Richmond County,” McLeod said.

The group has a related request going before the Augusta Planning Commission to renew an expired special zoning exception to allow an inert landfill at the site.

During a planning commission pre-meeting last week, Planning and Development Director Melanie Wilson described environmental concerns adjoining property owners raised while Harris was owner.

Reported issues included a “100-foot cliff” of materials, heavy erosion, looming “walls of debris” and the presence of a cemetery, Wilson said.

But “new owners have done some improvements” and stabilized areas at the site, she said.

McLeod said the group had been unable to locate a cemetery there.

The Chronicle determined earlier this year that despite the landfill changing hands, Harris remained involved in the operation. He appeared at February meetings, and had sold not only the landfill but also his personal residence, where he continued to live, to Laney.

Environmental and financial concerns weren’t the only ones raised. Augusta Regional Airport, located about a mile away, is opposed to the landfill, according to correspondence from Chairman Randy Sasser. The Federal Aviation Administration requires an extensive review of land use activities near airports, and Sasser said a more comprehensive assessment of land uses and impacts was needed for the area.

Commissioner Marion Williams said the commission opposed the effort in February at Johnson’s direction and likely would remain that way. Plus, excavation releases insects that attract birds, hazardous to airplanes and, according to Johnson, revenue lost at the city landfill won’t be made up by the level of activity on Dixon Airline Road, Williams said.

In other business, also going for approval Tuesday is an application by Matt Mills of Southeastern Company on behalf of Barbara Sims to rezone 51.6 acres at 3989 Harper Franklin Ave. for up to 161 single-family houses and eight acres for up to 40 townhomes.

Commissioners have a first reading of an amendment to the city planning code that would allow smaller breweries and distilleries to operate in business zones, including downtown.

The commission has an 11 a.m. meeting of the pension and audit committee scheduled, as well as a noon work session on the city’s request for federal Housing and Urban Development grant funds prior to the 2 p.m. regular meeting.

Reach Susan McCord at (706) 823-3215 or susan.mccord@augustachronicle.com.

 

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