Charleston County is considering purchasing 70 acres of land adjacent to the Bees Ferry Landfill, some of which would be used to create a wooded buffer between the landfill and a housing development that could be in the works soon.
County Council's Finance Committee voted 6-1 Tuesday to instruct Administrator Kurt Taylor and other staffers to explore and negotiate an arrangement with property owner Grand Bees Development, LLC and regulatory agencies, such as the state Department of Health and Environmental Control. Colleen Condon did not attend the meeting and Henry Darby abstained from the vote. Taylor will report his findings at the committee's next meeting March 20.
Several council members said that while they are willing to explore and discuss the idea, they currently are not ready to support the $6.6 million purchase.
Councilman Herb Sass, a strong supporter of the plan, said now there is only 100 feet between the landfill and the Grand Bees property, where houses are expected to be built. If the county purchases the land, there would be nearly 1,000 feet between the landfill and housing development. The county could expand the buffer to 300 feet, Sass said. "Three hundred feet is about the length of a football field. That's a pretty good buffer."
That's important, Sass said, because people tend to complain about being near a landfill, even if the landfill was there when they purchased their homes.
The plan also would give the county about 600 feet on which it could expand its compost operation and store debris in the event of a hurricane or other disaster, Sass said.
Grand Bees previously filed two lawsuits against the county to limit the heights of the solid waste and construction waste portions of the landfill, he said. The solid waste lawsuit was dismissed but the construction waste lawsuit still is being considered. If council purchases the 70 acres, which is a portion of the Grand Bees property, the developer has agreed to drop the lawsuit, Sass said.
County attorney Joe Dawson said the county wanted to increase the height of the construction waste portion of the landfill from 90 to 168 feet, but Grand Bees is fighting it.
The county previously had considered purchasing the Grand Bees property for a new recycling center, but Charleston Mayor Joe Riley said the city wouldn't approve a zoning change to allow the land to be used for that purpose.
Sass said city leaders have indicated they would allow the property to be used for a buffer, composting and storing debris.
But Anna Johnson, who voted against the plan, was concerned about the zoning. "I have a big concern about the zoning not being there," she said.
Dickie Schweers also had concerns, but he voted in favor of exploring the idea. "By law we don't need a buffer and $6.6 million is a lot of money," he said. "I question what we're getting for it."
Reach Diane Knich at 843-937-5491 or on Twitter at @dianeknich.