LAWRENCEVILLE - With the county's new solid waste plan set to take effect Jan. 1, and that plan being challenged in court, garbage seems to be on the minds of many Gwinnettians these days.
Tuesday's monthly Board of Commissioners meeting to consider rezonings and special-use permits was no exception. Garbage was the main topic of discussion when the meeting got under way in a rezoning case, and it was the main topic of discussion for the public when it ended.
In the first order of business, the commissioners tabled until February a highly contentious rezoning that would potentially allow for a speculative, waste transfer station to be built near Interstate 85 and the Shackleford Road/Beaver Ruin Road area. The tabling of the case comes despite much public opposition from nearby business owners, the 3,687 members of the Vietnamese Martyrs' Catholic Church who presented a signed petition, and the Gwinnett Village Community Improvement District. The county's own planning department and planning commission also recommended denial.
The tabling almost didn't happen though when Commissioner Kevin Kenerly tried to approve the rezoning with a motion he made along with a number of conditions. But with Commissioner Lorraine Green absent, Kenerly couldn't receive the necessary three votes needed to pass his motion. He had Chairman Charles Bannister agree with him, but Commissioners Bert Nasuti and Mike Beaudreau voted against the motion. Once that occurred, Commissioner Beaudreau made a motion to table the case until February. He had Kenerly and Bannister agree with him on this motion while Nasuti voted against it.
"When I took office, I was burdened with several questionable decisions - little presents that were left for me when I took office," Beaudreau said. "I'm not so sure I want to leave incoming Commissioner Lasseter with the same kind of presents. She deserves a voice on this issue."
Beaudreau also said he was concerned that no community meetings had taken place between the opposed church and its congregation that meets next door to the proposed waste site and the representatives of the proposed transfer station. Attorney Lee Tucker said he represents the applicant and landowner for the waste transfer station - Lancaster Enterprises - but a question to Tucker posed two weeks ago when the matter was before the planning commission about whom Lancaster Enterprises was went unanswered. This was something Allan Anderson raised when he addressed the commissioners in opposition to the project. Anderson represented nearby business owners.
"This is a request for a purely speculative zoning for a waste transfer station," Anderson said. "We don't have any idea about who actually operates it."
The commissioners will consider the case again at its Feb. 3 day meeting.
Garbage was also the only topic of discussion during the public comments portion of the meeting. The first 10 people who stood to talk to the commissioners were all opposed to the new plan, and a few of them asked for a reconsideration of that plan. Residents' concerns stemmed from running local businesses out of the county trash business to vacant rental properties being subject to the garbage fee to concerns about "the garbage Gestapo" rummaging through trash with the end result being a possible $500 fine.
Michael Cunningham said the annual fee which will appear as a line item on property tax bills was "un-American" and called the fee a "stealth tax" since most people won't be aware that it's coming out of their escrow.
When Beaudreau spoke up in defense of the plan, he displayed a pricing proposal which showed that local firm Southern Sanitation's proposal to service the county was nearly $9 higher than Advanced Disposal Services, which was awarded one of the contracts.
When Beaudreau asked the crowd would they rather see higher prices or free choice, cries for free choice rang out. The room became so hot with opposition and outburst that Bannister at one point said the meeting would be adjourned if the outbursts continued.