A new recycling center and more garbage likely is on the way to a site near the Bees Ferry Landfill in West Ashley, a plan that drew cheers from some recycling advocates and outrage from Charleston Mayor Joe Riley.
How they voted
The Bees Ferry property
Colleen Condon, Anna Johnson, Dickie Schweers, Joe Qualey, Herb Sass
The Palmetto Commerce Parkway property
Elliott Summey, Teddie Pryor, Vic Rawl, Henry Darby
Charleston County Council's Finance Committee voted, 5-4, Thursday to have staff members begin the process of purchasing a site for a new recycling facility that was identified only as “site number 1.”
Several council members Friday confirmed that the site is a parcel known as the Kuznik property on Bees Ferry Road in front of the Bees Ferry Landfill.
They also confirmed that not only recyclables would be brought to the site, but likely much of the county's garbage as well. County staffers plan to remove recyclable material from the waste before dumping it in the landfill.
Now, the county takes more than half of its garbage to the Oak Ridge Landfill in Dorchester County and dumps the rest at Bees Ferry. Under the new plan, it would bring most, if not all, of its trash to Bees Ferry.
County Council discussed the possible purchase of the properties behind closed doors, which is legal under the state's Freedom of Information law, said Jay Bender, an attorney for the South Carolina Press Association.
But council members said only that they were looking for a site for a recycling facility. They didn't say it would include a trash-sorting facility as well. That clarification should have taken place in open session, Bender said.
The new facility is part of a plan to reach the county's goal of recycling at least 40 percent of its stream of solid waste.
Mitch Kessler, the county's solid-waste consultant, said the decision on where to build a new facility is up to County Council. He recommended to council members that they choose a site where the various solid-waste activities could be close together. He tells all his clients that it's more efficient to have a recycling center, compost facility, landfill and collection and disposal activities at the same or nearby sites, he said.
Riley was outraged by the plan. “I'm flabbergasted by the selection.” They are planning to bring heavy industrial activity to a largely residential area, he said.
The landfill on Bees Ferry Road was built decades ago, and much of the development around it is comprised of middle-class residential neighborhoods.
The county is in the process of widening Bees Ferry Road, Riley said. “It will be handsome and landscaped,” he said. Bringing more trash trucks down the road will increase traffic on the heavily traveled thoroughfare, he said.
He also said that he thought the landfill eventually would be full and closed, so the Bees Ferry area would get some relief from trash. But if the new plan goes through, the area will have to deal with garbage forever. “I will do everything I can to resist this,” Riley said.
It remains unclear whether there's anything Riley can do to stop the plan.
Council Vice Chairman Elliott Summey said county staffers, prior to the Thursday meeting, recommended two sites. One was the Grand Bees site alongside the Bees Ferry Landfill and the other was a site on the Palmetto Commerce Parkway, across from Republic's construction waste landfill.
Riley learned about the Grand Bees site, which falls in the city of Charleston, Summey said, and notified some council members that he would fight the required zoning changes the property would require.
Some council members learned that the nearby Kuznik property is in what is known as a “donut hole,” Summey said, which is land that falls in unincorporated Charleston County even though it is surrounded by the city. That property would not require city approval. So they voted to attempt to purchase that property instead.
Summey and three other council members voted to try to buy the Palmetto Commerce Parkway property. He said the Kuznik site would require the county to fill wetlands which would slow down the process. And his preferred site also is better for the region, he said. Recyclables from Summerville, Daniel Island and the Dorchester County portion of North Charleston could easily be brought there, he said.
County staffers considered several other sites for the facility, including the former Baker Hospital site in North Charleston, said Councilwoman Colleen Condon, but they brought only two recommended sites for consideration to County Council.
Condon said she thinks Riley has spoken only to council members opposed to the Bees Ferry site, and that he likely will change his mind when he gets all the facts.
The new facility will be fantastic, she said. And staffers plan to dig up some parts of the landfill and pull the recyclables out of it. That can happen only if the recycling facility is near the landfill, she said.
And, Condon said, she doesn't think the facility will create a traffic problem. She estimates that the facility will result in 300 truck trips per day on Bees Ferry Road. In comparison, she said, if a development once proposed for the Grand Bees property was built, it would generate 9,000 car trips per day. “So it actually could reduce traffic on Bee Ferry,” she said.
County Council Chairman Teddie Pryor said he voted for the Palmetto Commerce Parkway site, but the majority of council wants the facility to be near the landfill. He can accept that, and Riley might have to accept that too, he said. “The mayor really doesn't have a say. We don't need his permission.”
Reach Diane Knich at 937-5491 or on Twitter @dianeknich.