ONLINE UPDATE: County planning board approves permit to expand landfill

by Kelly Corbett
Thursday, December 6, 2012

The New Hanover County Planning Board voted unanimously to approve a special use permit to expand the 400-acre county landfill onto two adjacent properties on Thursday, Dec. 6, following a public hearing.

The three conditions of the permit include the applicant continuing to work with the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program, consulting with the North Carolina Plant Conservation Program and a 50-foot setback for the combination of the two parcels.

County environment management director Joe Suleyman gave a presentation explaining what the permit would mean for the county.

The permit would extend the life of the landfill by an estimated 45 years, or two generations.

Another analysis of a rare grass, called big three-awn grass, discovered by the Natural Heritage Program in the existing landfill location is scheduled in the spring.

“They’re not saying this is an endangered species,” planning manager Shawn Ralston said about the Natural Heritage Program’s request.

The idea for the relocation of the grass came from a recommendation by the program that also supports the county’s Coastal Area Management Act land use plan, she said.

The surrounding properties are currently zoned as I-2 Heavy Industrial District, located at 5200 and 5210 U.S. Hwy. 421 N.

About one-third of the total amount of 276.85 acres of land would be used for waste disposal.

During the public hearing, resident Rob Zapple, who ran for county commission in the November election, said he was not opposed to the permit but wanted to ask questions and make recommendations.

Zapple’s concerns were the eventual leaking of the landfill into water sources, such as the Cape Fear River, along with the height of the waste.

“We don’t want to see a large mountain of garbage,” he said.

Suleyman said staff is not proud of the fact that the height of the garbage would reach 170 feet, the highest point in the county.

Board member Anthony Prinz expressed concerns with water and air quality in the county.

“The past few years we’ve seen that the sulfur dioxide conversation has been very active,” he said, later adding that he supports the landfill expansion wholeheartedly.

“I think it’s a win-win,” Prinz said about the landfill expansion including future plans for wildlife education.

The landfill has been an ongoing topic with the county commission as the board works to decide a solid waste plan for the future.

It has been in operation since 1981. Under Senate Bill 1492 regulations, the county cannot permit an additional landfill, but the estimated remaining site life of the landfill is 5 years.

The decision to grant the special use permit to expand the landfill will go before the county commissioners at the regular meeting on Jan. 7.

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