Dialogue needed about landfill

-A A +A

Time to listen to others

Something smells – literally – about the proposed changes for the Mineral Mining Road Landfill. If you’ve followed this issue you know Griffin Brothers Enterprises is seeking a zoning change from R-45, rural residential/agricultural, to I-1, light industrial, to allow the construction and debris landfill to become a regional sanitary landfill.
Waste Management is the company seeking to build the landfill that will accept household trash from North Carolina and South Carolina.
We published the original story in our Jan. 2 edition of The Lancaster News. Immediately, there was an outcry from the public, especially from those who live or own property nearby.
The outcry is understandable. It appears Lancaster County Council fast-tracked the process by holding three readings in December, with the final reading at a special meeting Dec. 29. Council’s reasoning was so it would not have to start the process over again with a new calendar year.
The ambiguously named Project December also held no clue that the hearing was in reference to a regional landfill that was coming to Lancaster County. Council defended its action by pointing out that it had published – as legally required – public hearing notices in December about the landfill.   
Earlier public hearing notices dealt with changing and deleting language in the ordinances and requests to rezone the current Mineral Mining Road Landfill. However, these notices are written in legal terms, not for John Q. Public.
County Administrator Steve Willis said no one showed up for the public hearings. Now, did residents see the notices? Did they read them and not understand what they meant? If so, why didn’t they attend the public hearings?
County attorneys recommended the Project December moniker because it fell under an economic development project. If it had been a business or company Lancaster County was recruiting, that would be understandable. But this deal does not meet recruiting criteria. This business is already here.
So, what is the answer for the landfill? This issue is not resolved – not by a long shot. It won’t be resolved for a long time. There are a lot of questions. And those questions cannot be answered through anger, finger-pointing and innuendo.
There are good people on County Council – people who truly care about the county. That’s why they offered to run for office. But are they experts on sanitary landfills? We doubt it.
Opponents feel like they’ve been deceived by the folks they entrusted to public office. They also have valid concerns, concerns that need to be addressed.
Other counties such as Spartanburg, Williamsburg and Union have had similar experiences. Why can’t we talk with them? Find out what’s good, what’s bad and how we can we improve. That conversation must include everyone involved – officials and residents.
Residents will get a chance to air their concerns about the proposed landfill rezoning at a public hearing at the Lancaster County Board of Zoning Appeals Thursday (Feb. 3.) The hearing is at 6:30 p.m. at the County Administration Building, 101 N. Main St., Room 224.
Lately, there has been much concern over the lack of transparency in all government – on the federal, state and local levels. County Council Chairwoman Kathy Sistare addressed a local transparency issue last week.
“We feel County Council is as transparent as possible,” Sistare said. “We could be accused of being not great negotiators because they (residents) want more money out of the deal, but we can’t be accused of not being transparent.”
From our viewpoint, council met quietly and quickly approved Project December, which we now know is a landfill.
Open, honest dialogue and communication are critical to any decision. It’s time to put aside the animosity and really listen to each other. Together let’s make transparency a reality.