North Charleston residents have been assured that a proposed solid-waste facility would handle recycling only, but Charleston County officials say they haven’t ruled out processing garbage at the same site.

“If the opportunity presents itself in the future, we would look at it,” County Council Chairman Teddie Pryor said.

For residents who live nearest the Palmetto Commerce Parkway location eyed for the facility, the difference between recycling and garbage is a key point as North Charleston considers a zoning change needed for the plan.

“They clearly want to get the recycling plant approved before there is much discussion about the garbage processing,” said Noel Casey, of the Colony North Civic Association. “The plant would actually be visible from some of the houses in Colony North, across the railroad tracks.”

Charleston County wants a new recycling center to handle the growing amount of material the county is collecting. The county has discussed sorting through garbage to recover additional recycled material but has not decided whether that will happen some day, or where.

“If we’re going to be proactive, we should build it with the ability and space to do that,” County Councilman Herb Sass said. “That’s the next step. To limit ourselves now is short-sighted.”

North Charleston Councilwoman Rhonda Jerome said county officials have assured her and residents that “it will only be recycling.”

“They assured me there will be no garbage, and I will hold them to the coals on that,” Jerome said. “I may ask for that in writing.”

And if Jerome is not satisfied, the county could have a hard time getting approval for the needed zoning change. The county has asked North Charleston to rezone an 18-acre tract along the parkway for heavy industrial use.

North Charleston’s Planning Commission heard the request on Sept. 9 and recommended that City Council approve the change, but there was no discussion at the planning meeting about garbage processing.

The county’s plan to locate the facility in North Charleston came after West Ashley residents objected to building it next to the Bees Ferry Landfill. A majority on County Council initially picked the Bees Ferry site but changed course the following week in the face of opposition from residents.

The council’s most influential North Charleston members — Pryor, who is a North Charleston city employee, and Vice Chairman Elliott Summey, the son of North Charleston’s mayor — supported the North Charleston site for the recycling facility from the start.

“Everyone wants to know, why that particular tract, instead of farther north on the parkway where there aren’t residential neighborhoods,” Casey said. “That might cause an uprising, if they want to do the garbage there.”

He said that even the recycling plan has caused concerns about truck traffic, noise and odors.

County Councilwoman Colleen Condon said it would nice to be able to pull the recyclables out of the garbage, to save space in the Bees Ferry Landfill, “but it’s not something we’re committed to today.”

Like other county officials, Condon wouldn’t rule out garbage processing in the future, but she said it would be hard to have such an operation at the North Charleston site, as opposed to the Bees Ferry location adjacent to the landfill.

At a North Charleston site, garbage would have to be trucked in, sorted, reloaded and trucked back out.

Recycling is collected separately from garbage, by the county, and is currently sorted and shipped from a facility on Romney Street in Charleston. Garbage is collected by municipalities and private haulers, and taken to landfills.

Jerome said the county plans she has seen call for creating an attractive building where everything would take place indoors, but she wants assurances about garbage before City Council takes up the question of rezoning the land. A public hearing is scheduled at City Hall on Nov. 7.

Reach David Slade at 937-5552 or Twitter @DSladeNews. Reach Diane Knich at 937-5491 or on Twitter @dianeknich.