Landfill meeting gets heated

Published 4:29 pm Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Between 250-300 concerned citizens, representatives from Cumberland County and Powhatan County, and those involved with the proposed Green Ridge Recycling and Disposal Facility took part in a community meeting at Cumberland County Elementary School on Thursday.

The meeting lasted approximately three hours, and several dozen members of the public spoke.

The facility is proposed to be located on approximately 1,200 acres off Route 60, in the area of Pinegrove Road and Miller Lane.

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During a presentation of the project, one of the County Waste of Virginia Owners Jerry Cifor gave an overview of the project; Lynn Klappich, engineer with Draper Aden Associates, spoke about the process of developing a landfill; William Shewmake, attorney with LeClairRyan representing County Waste of Virginia, spoke about the process the company and the county would have to undergo during the application process.

The Cumberland County Planning Commission, with the Cumberland County Board of Supervisors, will meet June 14 and June 28, 6:30 p.m. at Cumberland County Elementary School to consider a conditional use permit and a rezoning permit from the facility. The rezoning permit will be for 15 parcels, with 14 currently zoned as Agricultural-2 and a portion of a parcel zoned as Residential-2.

The rezoning request would have the parcels be zoned as M-2, industrial zoning.

The facility, Cifor said, would bring approximately 30 jobs.

Cifor said this would be the first landfill the company has operated, having worked in landfills by their competitors.

“County Waste has never owned its own landfill,” Cifor said. “Right now we are very dependent upon using competitors’ landfills.”

He said the landfill would be an approximate $20 million investment for County Waste of Virginia.

Cifor said the County Waste of Virginia employees have operated landfills in the past.

“We’re going to do everything right,” Cifor said about concerns about the project’s operations.

The facility would be divided into a western fill area and an eastern fill area. The majority of the remaining land is set to be used as a buffer.

Green Ridge is proposed to bring between $1.4 million to $2.8 million a year to the county.

The website for the proposed landfill noted that the landfill will be open from Tuesday through Saturday for 24 hours a day. The landfill will close all day Sunday and open at 6 a.m. on Monday.

The proposed facility will have recycling and convenience centers for Cumberland residents to bring household waste and recyclables.

There was a question and answer period after the presentation. Audience members, voicing frustration and concerned about the development, also asked questions and gave comments during the presentation.

Speakers during the meeting, many from Cumberland and Powhatan counties who live in close proximity to the landfill, one household reportedly less than 100 yards from the proposed site, voiced concern about the potential health repercussions, decreases in housing value, environmental impacts, safety concerns, concerns about children and elderly living near the proposed site, traffic concerns, particularly with landfill tractors and trucks, and noise levels.

Speakers also took issue with the company and county, alleging that the negotiation for the facility took place months in advance, and that residents should have been notified.

Melinda White said she lives near the site and saw information about the proposed project on June 4.

She noted an allegation of County Waste of Virginia Owner Scott Earl in 2010, as County Waste and Recycling paid $1 million for a settlement after an allegation of underrepresenting the tonnage of waste disposed at a landfill in Colonie, New York.

White also expressed concern about the thickness of the liner that would cover a cell at the proposed landfill.

Klappich said the liner comes to 60 mil, with 1 mil being 1/1,000th of a meter.

White, who said she was a real estate agent, stated she was concerned about the property value loss residents could experience.

“We cannot afford this, neighbors,” White said to the audience.

Audience member William Bruce, who has voiced concern about the proposed project before, suggested that county residents contact an attorney and receive a court injunction. An injunction, according to the Legal Information Institute, is a court order requiring a person to do or cease doing a specific action. He also urged residents to seek a referendum, which could potentially allow the public to vote on the proposed project.

Jacqueline James, who lives on Pinegrove Road by the site of the proposed landfill, said the project would have a negative impact on her family and neighbors.

“My mother lives right where the site is proposed,” James said. “She has lived there for over 50 years. Frankly I think it’s a little unfair and a little unconstitutional that she is not going to be able to enjoy a peaceful time at the home where she has lived at for 50 years.”

Powhatan residents expressed concern about the facility’s close proximity to the Powhatan County border, and expressed frustration that the majority of trucks entering the landfill would potentially enter through Powhatan County before reaching Cumberland.

Vikki Ronnau said she and her family recently bought a farm across the street from the proposed landfill. She said she saw an announcement of the landfill the day before the community meeting. She said the majority of landfill trucks entering the proposed site through Powhatan County would affect the traffic there.

“I commute to Richmond every day,” Ronnau said. She noted additional potential impacts, including increases in odor, dust, litter and wildlife presence.

She expressed frustration that residents in Cumberland and Powhatan were not notified of the potential project until recently.

“It’s really kind of sad you just slip in here like you’re just going to take control and get this done,” Ronnau said, noting she would be willing to pass flyers out to residents about the project.

Ted Voorhees, Powhatan County administrator, said Powhatan residents have expressed concern about the potential traffic on US Route 60.

“Powhatan County officials are aware of the project as we were notified by the Cumberland County Administrator, members of our community, and have visited the project website,” Voorhees said. “To my knowledge, we have not been contacted by County Waste representatives. Truck traffic on US 60 is the concern we are hearing most about from our citizens.”

Jay Smith, partner with Richmond-based Capital Results representing County Waste of Virginia, said in an email Friday that County Waste had not contacted Powhatan County as the project is located in Cumberland.

“As all of this property is in Cumberland County, we have not been in communication with Powhatan County officials about this project,” Smith said.

Tim Kennell Friends of Bear Creek Lake State Park member, spoke about the previous host agreement with Republic Services, and the resurfacing of many of the same concerns with this proposed project.

“That’s why we’re here tonight,” Kennell said. “We’re afraid and we’ve been deceived because we hadn’t known about it.”

Kennell encouraged members of the public to contact the board of supervisors and planning commission with their concerns.

“That’s their job to listen to you,” Kennell said. “What they act on is up to them. But that information also goes to the state, and the state ultimately is the one that will make the decision for this facility.”

Board Chairman Kevin Ingle said at the end of the meeting the county had an obligation to consider the facility’s requests.

Responding to questions from the audience about why it took so long for the public, particularly adjacent homeowners, to be notified, Ingle said the business had requested that the operation be confidential.

“We were approached by a company that wanted to locate to Cumberland,” Ingle said. “We have to entertain any business that wants to come, whether we … turn it down at the board meeting or approve it. Do we start selecting and choosing different businesses that want to come to Cumberland and say ‘no, you cannot?’ That is not standard practice. If it’s an auto care center or if it’s a landfill, we have to treat it the same way.”

He said the meeting came close to shutting down, citing the public’s interaction with County Waste of Virginia representatives as a reason.

“We brought it to Cumberland County as an option for revenue loss over the years, and this is an option for revenue gain,” Ingle said.

This article was corrected from its original version.