Charleston County eyeing new recycling center site on Palmetto Commerce Parkway

Following opposition from nearby neighborhoods, Charleston County officials want to change the site of a planned recycling center in North Charleston — again.

The location on Palmetto Commerce Parkway had been chosen after West Ashley residents opposed the county’s first choice, on land adjacent to the Bees Ferry landfill. Then, residents in the North Charleston neighborhoods of Pepperhill and Colony North also objected to having a recycling center built nearby.

“They wanted to put it right behind our community, which wasn’t acceptable at all,” said John Perreault of the Pepperhill Civic Club.

Now, with a crucial North Charleston zoning vote coming up on Nov. 7, county officials say the recycling center will be built on a different tract of land on Palmetto Commerce Parkway, about a mile away from the residential neighborhoods.

“We’re pleased, at Colony North,” said Civic Association President Noel Casey. “Elliott (Summey, vice chairman of County Council) tells me it’s a done deal.”

County Council Chairman Teddie Pryor said he heard the residents’ concerns and is negotiating to purchase the alternative site on Palmetto Commerce Parkway, near the Republic landfill. Both Palmetto Commerce Parkway sites considered by the county are part of the large land holdings owned by Robert Collins and members of his family.

“In 15-20 days, the deal will be finished,” Pryor said.

But some members of County Council aren’t so sure.

Councilman Herb Sass said he’s puzzled by Pryor’s actions. The council has to vote on a new site for the recycling center, he said, and hasn’t even discussed the second site on the Palmetto Commerce Parkway. He thinks Pryor is overstepping his boundaries by negotiating the land deal without discussing it with other council members.

Councilman Dickie Schweers said he thinks it’s acceptable for Pryor to have conversations about a new site, but he doesn’t think Pryor can negotiate unilaterally.

“He can talk but he can’t commit,” Schweers said.

Pryor disagrees.

“It doesn’t make any difference if it’s site A or site B,” he said. “Both sites are on the Palmetto Commerce Parkway.”

Pryor plans to present the matter to council after the deal is arranged and the contract is ready to be signed. County Council will have to approve only the cost of the new site, which likely will be less than the first Palmetto Commerce Parkway site, he said.

“The same five people who supported building on Palmetto Commerce Parkway before would support building there again,” Pryor said. “We might even get a few more votes.”

Perreault said residents of Pepperhill are encouraged by talk of relocating the planned facility to sort recyclable material, but would like to see something in writing.

“We are in favor of it moving up there,” he said. “However, my opinion is that it shouldn’t even go on the parkway, because it will put all that extra traffic on Ashley Phosphate Road.”

The change in the county’s plan comes as North Charleston City Council is poised to vote on a zoning request for the first site on Palmetto Commerce Parkway, near Colony North and Pepperhill. The city has been asked to change the zoning from residential to heavy industrial, a category that allows many types of heavy industry, and is opposed by the neighborhoods.

“That would mean anything could be built there, like a zinc foundry,” said Casey.

He said the expectation now is that the zoning request will be changed to the less intense “light industrial” category, which would allow for things such as a warehouse on the site.

Pryor said the new Palmetto Commerce Parkway site for the recycling facility is zoned for heavy industrial use already, so it won’t require North Charleston to make a zoning change.

County Council originally voted in August to build the recycling center on a site adjacent to the Bees Ferry Landfill in West Ashley, after the county’s solid waste consultant recommended that site because he said it would be efficient to keep all solid waste services in one location.

The Bees Ferry site also would have opened the door to a long-term county plan, to separate and reclaim recyclables from garbage. After initially selecting the Bees Ferry site, the county ended up approving the Palmetto Commerce Parkway site the following week after County Councilwoman Anna Johnson changed her position on the issue.

Reach Diane Knich at 937-5491 or on Twitter at @dianeknich.

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