Last-minute resolution about proposed trash transfer station fails

zmurdock@beaufortgazette.comOctober 14, 2013 

  • In other business:

    • County Council approved a first read for a development agreement with Georgia developer Jaz 278 to build a shopping center on 66 acres of mostly undeveloped land near the intersection of U.S. 278 and S.C. 46.
    • County Council approved a first read to a change in business license requirements that would exempt companies involved in agriculture from having to hold a license.
    • The meeting was the first for new councilman Steve Fobes, who now represents part of Hilton Head Island. Fobes represents District 10, whose seat was left vacant at the end of July when Republican Steve Baer resigned.
    • The council honored 18 people who served as members of various county boards and commissions and left their positions this year. The council also honored the Penn Center by proclaiming Nov. 3-10 as "Penn Center Heritage Days Celebration Week."

A surprise resolution for the Beaufort County Council to oppose a trash transfer station in the Chechessee area was not voted on at the council's meeting Monday night in Beaufort.

The resolution, offered by councilman Brian Flewelling, would have transferred the majority of the 43.5-acre property to the county's Rural and Critical Lands Preservation Program, which acquires property around the county for conservation purposes.

Now any resolution about the trash transfer station will go through a council committee before it's discussed or voted on by the full board.

Flewelling, chairman of the council's Natural Resources Committee, said he will put forward a similar resolution at that committee's next meeting, scheduled for Nov. 5. If the committee approves a version there, it would go to the full council for approval.

In May, Beaufort County purchased the site at 97 Chechessee Road off S.C. 170, near the Beaufort-Jasper Water & Sewer Authority office, and announced it could one day become a trash transfer station.

Flewelling represents residents who live near the property on the council and has been vocal about his opposition to a trash transfer station at the site at previous meetings.

For months, residents from the Chechessee area, including Callawassie and Spring islands, have attended council meetings and addressed the council in protest of the potential station. About 35 of those residents were at Monday's meeting.

Flewelling told the council he made the resolution based on information received and a conversation from a two-hour-long executive session before the council's public meeting. Matters discussed in executive session are confidential, and Flewelling couldn't comment on the conversation.

Councilman Bill McBride said he believed the motion was out of order and argued that the resolution or any discussion of it could jeopardize the confidentiality of the executive session.

"By inference, you're giving away information we talked about in executive session," McBride said.

Instead, the council chose not to vote on the resolution, and chairman Paul Sommerville agreed the motion was out of order.

Flewelling countered, arguing that the resolution doesn't give away any of the discussion or confidential information.

"We voted to purchase this property without any public notice and without putting it on the agenda," Flewelling said to loud applause from the 20 or so remaining Chechessee-area residents.

Regardless, the resolution as written was not discussed in executive session and not given to council members until just before it was presented Monday, county administrator Gary Kubic said after the meeting.

To move forward, it will have to proceed through the typical committee-to-council recommendation procedures, county attorney Josh Gruber said.

"This is something that I wanted resolved tonight," Flewelling said after the meeting.

"This is nothing new, this is not a surprise -- other than maybe the timing of it," Flewelling went on. "I was hoping to use the fact that we had received information in executive session as an opening to put this option (forward). And that failed, obviously."

Flewelling spoke with Sommerville, Kubic and Gruber about the resolution after the meeting, agreeing to put a version of the resolution before the Natural Resources Committee and move forward from there.

In the meantime, residents of the area are growing "exceedingly tired" of waiting for council action regarding the site, Flewelling said after the meeting.

Not voting on the resolution Monday might delay a decision, but it gives county staff a chance to look into the details of such a proposal, Kubic said.

The process "is slow by its very nature to protect all interests, and that's exactly what was done at the heart of things here tonight," Kubic said.

Follow reporter Zach Murdock at twitter.com/IPBG_Zach.

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