What’s next in landfill process?

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Board of Zoning Appeals to consider request on property

By Chris Sardelli

Landfills are a messy business, though Kathy Sistare wants the public to know that business is now out of the hands of Lancaster County Council.
Sistare, chairwoman of County Council, has been fielding questions from county residents for weeks about the prospect of a new solid waste landfill being developed at the Mineral Mining Landfill, off S.C. 903 in the Flat Creek area.
“What we’re trying to get across to people is that Lancaster County is not in the landfill business,” Sistare said.
The discussion began after council entered into a host agreement with Houston-based Waste Management. The waste firm hopes to convert an existing construction and demolition landfill to a landfill for solid waste disposal, including household trash.
The property is currently owned and operated by Griffin Brothers Enterprises, which has submitted an application to the county’s Board of Zoning Appeals to modify the landfill.
“Lancaster County Council wanted to talk with those people (Waste Management) and develop a host agreement to make sure if they did come in, the county would benefit,” she said.
Sistare said County Council cannot prevent a business from moving into the county, especially if the business meets all the county’s land-use requirements.
County Administrator Steve Willis said the county has zoning restrictions in place, but as long as a business meets land-use requirements, council can’t halt its progress.
“Council doesn’t regulate businesses. We don’t even have business licenses here in the county,” Willis said. “If we did have business licenses and a business did something wrong, then they probably could revoke the business license, but we don’t even have that.”
Instead, council has made the process very restrictive, by requiring applicants to go in front of the county’s Board of Zoning Appeals, he said.
“Council has made this as restrictive as legally possible,” Willis said.  
Once the host agreement was complete, Sistare said the county had finished its part in the landfill process.
“County Council and the county’s administrative staff is done with the landfill as far as we’re concerned,” she said. “The host agreement is ready to go if the landfill is approved, and it does in fact happen. All we did was say they’re coming, and if they do come, we’d like to see Lancaster County benefit from it.”
As part of the host agreement with Waste Management, the county has asked for the construction of two new convenience sites, free residential garbage disposal and the ability for local haulers to bring their trash to the landfill free of charge. The agreement also bans hazardous waste dumping and stipulates the landfill never become a “mega-dump,” only collecting trash from the Carolinas and not from any other state.
“That’s all we did. And, we’re done,” she said.
In response to criticism about several special meetings council held during December to vote on the host agreement, Sistare said the meetings were open to the public, though the names of parties involved were kept confidential because it was a legal matter.
Sistare said council fast-tracked the ordinance in December to keep from having to restart the ordinance process in January, as would have been required by state law if it wasn’t completed by the end of 2010.
In doing so, Sistare said the county was able to negotiate concessions from Waste Management before the county Board of Zoning Appeals reviews Waste Management’s request for the property.
“I understand people were concerned about us having those meetings, but we only voted on the host agreement and didn’t vote on whether the landfill was coming,” she said. “We did this in December so the host agreement could be in place. But the host agreement doesn’t mean the landfill can come here or not come here.”
What’s next?
Sistare said future developments in the landfill process are now the responsibility of Waste Management and Griffin Brothers Enterprises. The next step is for representatives from both groups to appear before the county’s Board of Zoning Appeals.
The board had been set to hold public hearing on the issue on Jan. 11, but that hearing was canceled due to last week’s snow.
The public hearing has been rescheduled for Feb. 3 at 6:30 p.m. in room 224 of the County Administration Building.
The public will be able to discuss the application by Mike Griffin, who represents Griffin Brothers Enterprises Inc., for a special exception to expand the existing Mineral Mining Landfill to include a sanitary landfill, which would be officially listed as a class III facility.
If the board approves the application, then it’s up to Waste Management and Griffin Brothers Enterprises to meet S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control guidelines to convert the landfill to accept solid waste.
As part of the DHECT permitting process, applicants for a class III landfills must first submit information about the facility, including its type and output.
They must also show they can follow guidelines on maximum allowable disposal rates and permitted capacity.

Contact reporter Chris Sardelli at csardelli@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 416-8416