Okatie residents contest possible trash transfer-station site

cconley@islandpacket.comJune 15, 2013 

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A group of Okatie residents is pushing back against any possibility that a Beaufort County trash transfer station could one day be built along Chechessee Road.

The group, which includes people from gated communities on Spring and Callawassie islands, worry about increased truck traffic, odors and lower property values if such a station were built.

"The whole community is upset," said Callawassie resident Michael McNally. "We are having enough trouble in the bad real estate market without all this going on."

Beaufort County has agreed to buy 42 acres at 97 Chechessee Road for $850,000. The sale is due to close within a month.

The county says it has no firm plans for using the parcel, but officials have mentioned a transfer station as a possibility. The property abuts marshes and county-owned preservation land and would be within walking distance of a church and many waterfront homes.

County Council Chairman Paul Sommerville has said that acquiring the land gives the county more options for solid-waste disposal. By no means, he said, is the transfer station guaranteed for that site or anywhere else in Beaufort County.

Sommerville reiterated those assurances at Monday's council meeting after numerous residents spoke against putting the station along Chechessee Road.

"Nobody has decided to build a transfer station there. That is one of the possible uses," he said, adding that if and when such a decision is made, there would be a public process that involved nearby residents.

The county currently hauls its trash to the Hickory Hill landfill in Jasper County, which is owned by Waste Management. County officials say the dump will be full in six to 13 years.

Then the county would need to find an alternative, and the nearest landfills are about 100 miles away. That added distance probably would increase the county's disposal costs, officials say.

The transfer station could be used as a stopover, where local trash would be compacted before it is taken to another landfill. That means fewer trips to a landfill, lowering the county's cost, according to county solid waste manager Jim Minor.

Last week, Patrick Parkinson of Callawassie Island warned County Council of traffic, odor and noise problems if a transfer station occupies the site.

Parker Sutler, whose home on Sutler Road is near the site, said building the facility there would render his property worthless.

"The best I can figure, and common sense tells me, is the minute this hits the news and the purchase is made, my property value ... goes to zero," he said. "You couldn't give it away."

He suggested the county go ahead with the purchase but transfer the property into the Rural and Critical Lands preservation program to prevent future development.

Joe Tatarski, head of the Callawassie Island Property Owners Association and a retired engineer, says he and others are trying to convince the county that the Chechessee Road site is inappropriate.

"It's sort of a two-pronged attack: Don't build it here for these reasons, and we will help find other places to meet the criteria your engineer has set out," he said.

McNally, another retired engineer with expertise in redeveloping closed landfills, suggests building the transfer station on the Hickory Hill property after the landfill is capped.

"My expertise has shown it is very feasible to construct on top of a landfill. It's a perfect adaptive reuse of a property that otherwise would stay fallow," he said, noting that concerns about trucks, smells and environmental issues would be moot.

McNally believes Waste Management also could generate some income by leasing the site.

"I think it would be a win-win for both sides," he said.

Follow reporter Casey Conley at twitter.com/IPBG_Casey.

Related content:

Beaufort County buys 42 acres, eyes trash transfer and recycling station site, May 29, 2013

Beaufort County Council authorizes $850K land acquisition, May 22, 2013

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