Rezoning denied, permit recommended to board of supervisors

Published 4:01 am Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The Cumberland County Planning Commission took two votes related to the proposed Green Ridge landfill during Monday’s meeting, one denying recommendation to rezone the property, and one to approve the conditional use permit with conditions and concerns from the commission that would be addressed by both the Cumberland County Board of Supervisors and County Waste of Virginia, which owns the facility.

Four commission members voted for recommending denial of the rezoning request, one abstained, and two voted to recommend approval of rezoning.

The rezoning (REZ) request would apply to 15 parcels with 14 currently being 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, which designates a heavy industrial zone.

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Chairman Dr. Bill Burger said the rezoning would not allow new property other than the Green Ridge facility to be located there.

“The applicant has submitted proffers that will in fact eliminate anything except the dump and businesses that are associated with it,” Burger said.

Burger said he believes the rezoning application would violate the intent of the county’s comprehensive plan.

The conditional use permit has 39 conditions that include constructing a potential entrance and exit connecting the facility on Route 60 at the facility’s expense; buffers at no less than 200 feet adjacent to properties for residences not owned by the facility or affiliates, or 300 feet from the nearest residential properties, with 100 foot buffers along other perimeters of landfill property; no less than 500 feet from any well or spring used for drinking water; groundwater would be monitored in accordance with DEQ regulations.

A motion to deny recommendation of the conditional use permit offered by District Two Supervisor Stephen Donahue did not pass, with two voting in favor of denying recommendation and five voting against the motion to deny recommendation.

District Four Supervisor Hunter Allen suggested passing the conditional use permit to the board of supervisors without any recommendation from the commission. This motion also did not pass.

Burger suggested that the commission vote to send the permit to the board of supervisors, but with the condition that County Waste of Virginia and the board of supervisors take the questions and concerns commission members have into account and offer specific solutions.

Allen made a motion to recommend approval of the conditional use permit with the suggestions members of the commission made.

Members of the commission, County Administrator and Attorney Vivian Seay Giles and Darren Coffey, chief executive officer with The Berkley Group, sought clarification about the motion.

Burger said his recommendation was that in the event that the the board of supervisors recommended Green Ridge, that the conditions presented by the commission be addressed.

Donahue and Allen clarified that the motion the commission voted on made by Allen recommended approval of the permit, but with the conditions the commission would present to the board of supervisors and County Waste of Virginia.

Six voted in favor of recommending the conditional use permit with the commission’s recommendations to the board, with one voting not in favor.

Regarding the vote, Burger said, “At least if we make recommendations for conditions, it’s a starting point from which the board and the applicant can in fact work.”

Questions posed by commission members included a specific plan in writing to determine compensation for property owners who live in close proximity to the site in the event of potential pollution, noise and odor, and providing more specific actions on maintaining water quality for the area.

The motion to approve the facility with those conditions was passed six to one.

The proposed landfill will be located at the Cumberland/Powhatan county line off Route 60, at approximately 1,200 acres with between 500-600 acres used for landfill operations, and will collect household waste in addition to industrial, non-hazardous debris.

Jerry Cifor, principal of County Waste of Virginia, said in a statement that the company respected the commission’s decisions Monday.

“We respect the process,” Cifor said. “And understand how difficult their job was on this particular issue.”

Regarding evaluating the commission’s suggestions, Cifor said, “I think we’ve offered most of what they’ve asked for, it’s just some of it may not be clear enough to people.”

The Cumberland County Board of Supervisors will hold public hearings Thursday, 6:30 p.m. at Cumberland County Elementary School on the rezoning request and conditional use permit for the facility.

The announcement for Green Ridge, made in late May, has created a wealth of concern and opposition from residents, citing health risks, traffic concerns and decreases in housing values.

Participants held signs outside before the meeting and inside during the meeting. Speakers who addressed the commission during public comment period voiced concern about the voting process moving too quickly, the size of the proposed facility, one speaker saying the approximately 1,200-acre property would be larger than New York’s Central Park, and the traffic and environmental effects the facility could have in Cumberland and neighboring counties Powhatan and Goochland.

District Four Supervisor David Meinhard held a district meeting at the Randolph District Fire Station Friday to get input and answer questions from members of his district. Residents from outside the 4th District also attended and asked questions.

Meinhard said he has not yet decided on his vote for the proposed landfill. He clarified that the county did not seek the landfill, that County Waste of Virginia approached the county.

He said the county has to consider a $500,000 shortfall that was passed with the fiscal year 2018-2019 budget in April. County supervisors at the time the budget was passed noted two potential projects that could supplement the shortfall.

Meinhard said the county has a few options. It could approve the landfill, which would bring between $1.4-$2.7 million to the county each year. He said this could fill the budget shortfall, prevent tax increases and leave funds left over for capital improvement projects.

Supervisors said during the April budget meeting that the $500,000 deficit without taking other action could result in the property tax being raised by approximately 5.5 cents.

“The board has been faced with a situation that we’re either going to have to do something like accept the landfill, or we’re going to have to raise the taxes,” Meinhard said.

He said another option would be to eliminate the county’s land use tax program, which would allow for $700,000 annually. Meinhard said this would take care of the budget shortfall but leave little funding for other projects.

Meinhard said the $500,000 shortfall was due to the county’s health insurance premium rising by 15 percent for the second consecutive year and a new contract with Container Retails, LLC, which supervisors have said in earlier meetings could come to $1-$3 million. Meinhard said these expenses are expected to rise in future years.

Meinhard said if the county does not approve the landfill or eliminate the land use tax program, it would have to raise taxes, and potentially see funding cuts to county services such as the sheriff’s department and school system.

According to a sign up sheet provided by Meinhard, approximately 44 signed into Friday’s meeting. Under an option to write whether participants were for or against the proposed landfill, 11 signatures were listed in favor and 31 were listed in opposition.

The question and answer meeting saw several speakers, mainly residents from District Four and a few from other districts. Despite the format as a question and answer meeting, some participants spoke in favor of the proposed landfill, and some expressed disapproval.

Meinhard denied an allegation that his vote had been bought for approximately $50,000, asking whoever gave the statement to come to the front of the room so Meinhard could disprove the claim.

“I will call him or her a damned liar to his face,” Meinhard said in a tense time during the district meeting.

“I said it,” Bill Bruce, who led the referendum project, said.

“Come up here Bruce, you’re a damned liar,” Meinhard said.

Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Travis Gilliam intervened, asking that participants be civil to one another during the meeting.

An emergency motion to dismiss the referendum was filed by L. Lee Byrd representing the County Board of Supervisors that requested that the referendum be dismissed due to a lack of subject matter jurisdiction. L. Lee Byrd is with Sands Anderson law firm, based in Richmond.

The article has been corrected from its original version.