Okatie residents continue fight against trash transfer station

cconley@islandpacket.comJuly 22, 2013 

  • Beaufort County Council authorized Bridges Preparatory School to lease the Charles Lind Brown Center in Beaufort for the upcoming school year. The new charter school will use the county-owned facility from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. and pay $3,000 a month in rent and share in utilities costs. Residents and community groups would have access to the center on Hamar Street after school hours.

Okatie residents opposed to a possible trash and recycling transfer station on Chechessee Road are keeping the pressure on Beaufort County Council.

The group packed council chambers Monday night for the third council meeting in a row, arguing that the proposed facility should be moved to another location farther from homes, marshes and protected lands.

"This really belongs in an industrial area, not a residential area," said Pat Parkinson of Okatie, who said the station would cause noise, traffic, odor and environmental problems.

Parkinson also criticized the council for not answering his questions, even though council rules prohibit members from engaging speakers during a public comment session.

"The reason you are elected is to be responsive to residents, not to sit there and be mute," he said.

All told, more than a dozen people spoke against the transfer-station idea. The group of about 50 people left after the public comment period. The council took no action on the issue.

The county bought the 42-acre parcel at 97 Chechessee Road in May for $850,000, saying at the time the land could one day be home to a transfer station.

The county hauls its trash to the Hickory Hill landfill in Jasper County, owned by Waste Management. The dump will be full in six to 13 years, according to county officials. State law prohibits the creation of a landfill within 75 miles of an existing one, so the county couldn't start building a replacement now, even if it had the land to do so.

At this time, there are no firm plans to build a transfer station on the Chechessee Road property. County officials say the land could have many uses, and that a transfer station is far from certain.

That hasn't stopped residents from gated communities on Spring and Callawassie islands, along with those who would live much closer to the proposed facility, from mobilizing against it.

Parker Sutler, whose property on Sutler Road is directly alongside the county land, says the facility would blight an otherwise beautiful vista, while increased truck traffic would pose a risk to motorists.

County officials maintain the possibility of a transfer station gives them more options for handling solid waste generated by a growing population. It also could give them leverage in negotiations with Waste Management to reduce tipping fees at the Hickory Hill landfill.

County administrator Gary Kubic said negotiations with Waste Management in search of a "mid-term to long-term solution" for trash hauling are planned for next week. Those talks, he said, "may have some impact on the development of a transfer station."

"We are trying to balance the interests of the neighborhood and the interests of the county at large, and it is an arduous process," Kubic said Monday. He asked residents for patience as the negotiations play out and said a resolution that satisfies all parties could be within reach.

Councilman Brian Flewelling, whose district includes the transfer station site, said those opposed to the facility are trying to be "preemptive."

"I think they are trying to forestall further consideration of this property as a trash transfer station," he said, adding that he supports their position, and several other council members do, as well.

Flewelling, who voted against buying the 42 acres earlier this year, urged members of the opposition group to stay vigilant as the process unfolds, but to "keep their powder dry."

"You don't want to burn all of your ammunition in a salvo," he said.

Follow reporter Casey Conley at twitter.com/IPBG_Casey.

Related content: Beaufort County might lease Charles Lind Brown Center to Bridges Prep, June 19, 2013 Okatie residents contest possible trash transfer-station site, June 15, 2013 Beaufort County buys 42 acres, eyes trash transfer and recycling station site, May 29, 2013

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