I recently attended a portion of the Charleston County Council Finance Committee meeting. When I arrived, a packed room was listening to a presentation by the County Library Board summarizing its research effort and request to approve a referendum in November for a $108 million bond issue for new and improved county libraries. Council voted to approve the referendum.
Next, I participated in a discussion led by Councilman Herb Sass on the Bees Ferry landfill. At issue is a proposal that the county purchase approximately 70 acres adjacent to the landfill for additional "elbow room" that would benefit the county and its citizens in a number of ways:
. The $7 million purchase price would generate a significant financial return as the C and D (construction and demolition) landfill would be able to re-open and take additional debris at $30 per ton.
. The county could cease putting this bulky waste in the municipal solid waste (MSW) portion of the landfill, thereby prematurely filling up this precious space, or hauling it to a Dorchester County alternative site for $36 per ton.
. Revenues generated by additional tipping fees for C and D, operational cost savings, and additional MSW capacity are projected at $70 million to $90 million.
. The county could move the composting operation over to the newly acquired property, thereby expanding the area (and the capacity) for the MSW operation. This would extend the life of the Bees Ferry landfill by approximately 25 years.
. By acquiring this land for the county, the land will not be developed, and future traffic on Bees Ferry will be reduced by an estimated 2,250 car trips per day.
. County taxpayers would stop paying legal costs for court challenges and appeals over perceived violations by the landfill, as a settling of these disputes would be negotiated as part of the land purchase.
. The county landfill would have significant buffers and separation distances from present and future housing for the rest of its practical life.
Given the relative difficulty of getting state permits and zoning necessary for any new landfill, additional use of the Bees Ferry site is especially attractive. It has also been argued successfully in court that the current landfill is operating with inadequate buffers and separation. If the county loses its appeal on this point, Bees Ferry will be in violation of state and local regulations and would likely be forced to acquire land to move the boundary.
Several council members seemed to doubt whether or not homebuilders would develop and build adjacent to the now closed C and D cell. My company, Ryland Homes, is currently developing a new neighborhood on Proximity Drive. We also built approximately 120 homes across Bees Ferry several years ago in Bolton's Landing. The landfill is extremely well-managed and is a very good neighbor.
Aside from the truck traffic, many are not aware that it's over there. In short, we will continue to develop and build in this area as long as demand in this area continues to grow. Other builders are interested as well, and Ryland will either purchase and build on this property or compete with whoever does. While there are other parcels in the area for builders to build on, this site has a unique and compelling value to the county.
I am sure that additional capacity for the landfill offers very little direct comparison to new libraries, but taxpayers should consider this: the landfill proposal of approximately $7 million would cost the county less than one-tenth of the library proposal (borrowing $108 million) and would pay over 1,000 percent return on the county's investment in additional tipping fees. The increased revenue generated by purchasing this land and securing the future of the landfill would go a long way toward financing, for instance, the new and upgraded libraries.
Ryland Homes South Carolina
Seven Farms Drive