Trash hauler finds new site

DORAVILLE - Two years ago Gwinnett County commissioners rejected plans for a garbage transfer station near Norcross and the trash hauler sued.

Now, to end the litigation, Advanced Disposal, of Jacksonville, Fla., has found another site and the county commission has agreed to consider rezoning it in July.

This time the solid waste company is focused on 6 acres in an industrial area near Doraville.

And just like before, those near the vacant site are unhappy their new neighbor could be a trash transfer station.

"I don't think it's such a good idea," said Gaylon McCants, whose home of 30 years backs up to the spot off Buford Highway where the transfer station would go.

"We just feel like it's going to undermine the value of our property if they put something like that in."

Transfer stations are enclosed building where loads of garbage are dumped on the floor and then consolidated into a larger, single load before being shipped to a landfill.

In this instance, up to 100 garbage trucks a day would travel to the facility on Jones Bridge Road, bringing 400 tons of refuse that would be packed into semi-trailers destined for a landfill outside Gwinnett.

First, though, Advanced must get the vacant land separated from Buford Highway by a railroad embankment rezoned from light industrial to heavy industrial use.

Advanced previously wanted to put the transfer station on 6 acres on Goshen Springs Road beside Interstate 85. To get there, garbage trucks would have traveled Indian Trail-Lilburn Road and Oakbrook Parkway.

Fearing their property values would take a hit, investors and real estate types who own office buildings and warehouses along that route fought the transfer station and threatened to sue the county if it got approved.

Instead the county rejected it - commissioners refused to rezone the land from light industrial to heavy industrial - and Advanced Disposal filed suit.

The latest location makes sense because it is in an industrial zone that is home to a landfill and a concrete plant, said Advanced Disposal's attorney, Andrea Miller Jones.

"The land is shown on the county's comprehensive land use plan as being OK for heavy industrial use and it has good access to major highways," Miller Jones said, echoing arguments made in support of the earlier site.

However, homes in the Mechanicsville neighborhood also border the site, and County Commissioner Bert Nasuti has received some e-mails from property owners unhappy with the transfer station proposal.

With streets laid out like a mini-town, the quiet neighborhood of modest homes is seemingly tucked away, hidden from sight just off Buford Highway.

Before industrial parks popped up around it, the area was a rural community situated between Norcross and Doraville.

Mechanicsville School on Florida Avenue was placed on the National Register of Historical Places in 1980. Built in 1911, the structure is reportedly the last one-room school house left standing in Gwinnett County.

Some homes in the area are well-kept, while others could use a little fixing up.

"I visited recently and counted 11 cars in one front yard, but also some houses are very, very nice," Nasuti said. "It's kind of a mixed bag."

McCants said the neighborhood with its grid-like streets was one of Gwinnett's first subdivisions, and was created in the early 1900s.

"We're not one of the upscale neighborhoods," McCants said. "We understand that, but we've always enjoyed living here.

"It's nice and quiet and there's not a whole lot of traffic anymore and we want to keep it that way."

No homes were near the other location that is tied up in court, but a business park lined the route garbage trucks would have taken.

One property owner who fought the earlier proposal was glad to hear the transfer station could go elsewhere.

"We don't want that thing coming up for consideration again," said Frank Farris, who owns industrial land on Goshen Springs Road, and was one of 15 land owners who hired an attorney and tried to help the county defend against Advanced Disposal's lawsuit.

A judge ruled about a year ago that they could not join the litigation filed in Gwinnett Superior Court.

If the county commission grants the Jones Mill Road rezoning on July 25, the lawsuit would end. If it is denied, the lawsuit will resume.

Under the latest proposal, garbage trucks would reach the site via Buford Highway, Jones Mill Road and Florida Avenue, according to county paperwork.

A 100-foot buffer would be left beside adjacent homes, and trees within the buffer would be left in place.

A ventilator and odor neutralizer system would be installed to eliminate odors, and all liquid waste would be captured on site and delivered to a wastewater treatment plant, according to plans filed by Advanced Disposal.

The site backs up to Governor's Lake business park, which is where developers and Asian investors plan to build Asian Village Atlanta - an upscale, 87-acre mixed-use project that would wrap around a Chinese botanical garden and include cultural centers, a museum, hotel, homes and high-end shopping.

The finished product would be a tourist attraction in the same vein as the Epcot Center, and it would improve the area and lead to other desirable development.

"We are concerned and we want to learn more about it," said Suzy O'Neal, project manager for Asian Village Atlanta.

"It's right in the middle of our long-term plans, but I understand those folks are just trying to solve a problem.

"It's got to go somewhere."