MARIETTA — The Cobb Board of Commissioners followed planning staff’s recommendation to deny a request to allow a south Cobb waste transfer station to start taking in household garbage.
The 4-0 vote will keep the Bankhead C&D Transfer Station, located on Veterans Memorial Highway near Discovery Boulevard, from taking in household waste. The facility had applied for a land use permit and heavy industrial zoning permit that would allow for the transfer.
“Our Community feels great. We feel like 150,000 tons of trash have been lifted off our shoulders,” said Shelia Edwards a resident of the Legacy at Riverline subdivision, located across Discovery Boulevard from the 8.16-acre site, which is currently zoned only to take in construction and demolition waste.
Edwards, one of 42 people who showed up to oppose the transfer station, was referring to the estimated amount of trash the facility would have taken in with the permit.
While Bankhead is currently only allowed to take in construction and demolition waste, it started taking in household trash in 2010 after getting a permit to do so from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. But it did not get a permit from the county. However the station started taking in household anyway and received citations from the county in January 2011 and March 2012.
The transfer station applied for the permit with the county last year and got unanimous approval from the Cobb Planning Commission. But the Board of Commissioners put off a decision on the matter for several months while a review of Federal Aviation Administration rules determined whether the site would be a threat to planes landing at nearby Fulton County Airport at Charlie Brown Field because of birds attracted to the trash.
On April 18, the Georgia Department of Transportation issued a letter saying it believed the transfer station would have the potential to adversely impact safety and liability at the airport, which has a runway located a mile from the transfer station.
As a result of the FAA findings, the county’s planning staff changed from recommending the project to opposing it.
East Cobb Commissioner Bob Ott, a Delta Air Lines pilot, said he agreed that birds can be a danger for planes, pointing to the 2009 U.S. Airways flight that landed on the Hudson River in New York, as well as a recent Delta incident in which birds flew into a plane’s engines.
“The bigger concern is you have small airplanes coming out of Charlie Brown airport, and a small plane will have a bigger impact from a bird,” Ott said. “Anytime you see landfills, or something associated with that, you see birds flying around. I think the FAA’s conclusion was that you’ve got to keep the airport area clear.”
Commissioner Woody Thompson, who represents the area that includes the transfer station and nearby residents, said that while the bird issue was a consideration, other factors, such as an “overkill” of at least five transfer stations in south Cobb, as well as some just over the Chattahoochee River in Fulton County.
Garvis Sams said the transfer station’s expansion would have included a new building designed to deodorize the trash before it is hauled off to landfills in the Atlanta area. The company also promised to keep trash transfer to major streets in the area.
But Thompson said that wasn’t good enough.
“Even when you’ve got these state of the art deodorizers, you’re going to get some smell,” he said. “It’s intense enough as it is, even with the construction debris, but it’s been that way for 30 years.”
Edwards said Legacy Cares, the group she helped organize to fight the transfer station, believes the facility can’t be trusted to only take in construction and demolition debris, and it will work to get it shut down entirely.
“There should be some penalty with them other than getting a fine, a slap on the wrist, and go back and open the next day,” she said.
Sams, with the firm of Sams, Larkin & Huff, said Tuesday afternoon that he spoke with his clients and he plans to file an appeal and petition for declaratory judgment in Cobb Superior Court. He said the transfer station met all the stipulations in the county ordinance, which meant it should be granted the permit. Sams said the criteria include not having an adverse impact on neighbors, claiming that the Legacy subdivision is not close enough to be threatened by the site. It is also in an area set aside for industrial on the county’s future land use map, which is the least restrictive land use.
“We meet all the objective criteria set forth in the ordinance,” he said. “They really don’t have a discussion in the matter if you meet all the objectives.”
Northeast Cobb Commissioner JoAnn Birrell, a former employee of Waste Management, who is now a consultant, recused herself from discussing and voting on the transfer station. She said she was keeping an election promise not to vote on solid waste issues.