Charleston County’s plan to process recyclable materials at a new facility along Palmetto Commerce Parkway in North Charleston moved ahead Monday despite some concern about the site’s proximity to neighborhoods.

“We’ve been searching for property for quite awhile,” Robert Lawing, an environmental engineer representing Charleston County, told the city planning commissioners. “Our existing facility in downtown Charleston is at capacity.”

The issue before the Planning Commission was a request to rezone an 18-acre tract along the parkway for heavy industrial use, a classification called “M2” that would allow the recycling center project, or other types of heavy industry.

“I’m very concerned about M2 zoning so close to residential areas,” said commission chair Sue Thigpen. “If it’s M2, anything goes.”

The city planning staff recommended approving the change, reasoning that the site has no residential neighbors and is not very far from a commercial landfill. However, the site is actually closer to the back of the Pepperhill and Colony North subdivisions than to the Republic landfill.

The site owners applied for the zoning change on Aug. 21, one day before Charleston County Council members discussed which properties the county should seek to buy for the new recycling center site.

The County Council initially decided on Aug. 22 to negotiate for a property in West Ashley adjacent to the Bees Ferry landfill, then switched to the North Charleston site five days later after public opposition to the West Ashley site developed.

Charleston County Council Chairman Teddie Pryor said Monday that he’s not aware of any discussions with the property owner prior to the county’s decision on which site to select, but the county staff has since been in contact with the owners of the North Charleston site.

“If North Charleston gives it the zoning, that’s our preferred site,” he said. “It needs to happen, and I hope they approve the rezoning.”

The site is a small piece of a 472-acre tract that’s part the Colins family land holdings, and is owned by a family partnership.

At the meeting Monday Lawing told the commissioners that the county’s current recycling site operates during daytime hours, and rarely produces unpleasant odors.

The Planning Commission recommended approval of the zoning change by City Council, with commissioner Anna Montgomery opposed.

Left unmentioned were plans that Charleston County officials have discussed to potentially use the recycling site to recover recyclable material from garbage, before the garbage is sent to a landfill.

On Aug. 27, following the County Council vote to pursue the North Charleston site, Pryor said that eventually that location could be used for sorting recycling from garbage, but the garbage would then need to be trucked to the landfill.

Supporters of the Bees Ferry site had argued that the recycling center should be adjacent to the landfill, in order to make it practical to separate recycling from garbage.

The county has been pursuing a goal of recycling 40 percent of Charleston County residential waste, and the volume of recycled material increased substantially after the one-bin system was introduced in many neighborhoods. That system allows households to put all their recycling in a single rolling bin, to be separated at the processing center.

The zoning issue for the Palmetto Commerce site will eventually be settled by a vote of North Charleston City Council.

Reach David Slade at 937-5552 or Twitter @DSladeNews.