Shoosmith landfill case deferred to July 20

The Planning Commission voted last week to defer a request from Shoosmith Bros. Inc., but not before several residents took to the podium to share concerns about the request and complaints about the landfill’s odor.

Before the start of the public hearing at the commission’s June 15 meeting, Chairman William “Bill” Brown said he would move to defer the case to July 20 after the public hearing.
The Shoosmith Bros. Inc. landfill, located just off Iron Bridge and Lewis Roads, was started in 1976 and permitted for 200 acres of the 600-acre site. In 1997, Shoosmith asked to add 200 acres to the landfill and made 24 proffers during that application and approval process.

The company is seeking changes to two of those proffers and one covenant to allow: The acceptance of out-of-state trash in the new section of the landfill; landfill and quarrying operations in the quarry at the same time; and the addition of more waste to an area of the landfill that has been capped.

In its report on the case, the planning staff recommended approval of the request because “the proposed amendments should have no greater impact on the area than the approved uses as currently conditioned.”

At the June 15 meeting, Brennan Keene, an attorney representing the landfill, said Shoosmith decided not to pursue concurrent quarrying and landfilling in the quarry in 1997 because, at that time, they didn’t think they could accomplish it. But, technology has changed, he said.

Deletion of the condition does not automatically give Shoosmith the right to have both operations in the quarry simultaneously, he said. The landfill would still have to apply for a permit from the state’s Department of Environmental Quality and Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, and the county would be “intimately involved” in that permitting process, Keene said.

“Our view is, even though this condition is taken out, the county is protected,” he said.

Keene pointed out that the older landfill area can and does receive out-of-state waste. Permitting out-of-state trash in both sections of the landfill would make operations easier, he said.

Keene said he believed the primary reason Shoosmith agreed to leave one area capped at 280 feet above mean sea level, 100 feet lower than other areas, was “the cost of reopening that older part.” But, that creates a condition that perhaps wasn’t considered at the time, as that lower section, which covers 16 acres, could become the site of water ponding and drainage issues, he said.

There has been discussion about odor management and control, he said.

“We will say the landfill business is a business that requires constant attention,” he said, and odor is a constant concern. Just that day, the landfill had started a test of a neutralizer, a new device to control the odor, he said.

Clover Hill Commissioner Russell J. Gulley said he thought there’d been a “moderate amount of disinformation” surrounding the case. He asked Assistant County Attorney Tara McGee whether information circulating that the landfill use should not have passed to the property’s new owners was correct. McGee said the 1997 case was very precise, and it called for the operation of the landfill by Shoosmith Bros. Inc.

“The operation today is by Shoosmith Bros. Inc.,” she said. The shareholders have changed, McGee said, but they are not required to stay the same.

Gulley also said it was his understanding that the tipping fee contract being negotiated between the county and the landfill was a separate issue with no relation to the zoning case. McGee said that was correct.

During the public hearing, Diana Parker said she opposed changes to the proffers, which were established after extensive public input. She has not found a concurrent quarrying and landfilling operation in Virginia, and she would love to know where it’s being done, she said.

Tim Vermaaten, of the Arbor Landing Homeowners Association, said the odor was never a problem when the former owners ran the landfill.

“We don’t feel like anything’s being done to mitigate the odor,” he said.

Tom Watson said nearby residents have been told the landfill was in the area first so they shouldn’t complain.  By the same token, Shoosmith’s current owners knew the proffers and covenants were in place when they bought the property, so they shouldn’t complain, either, he said.

“By the way, we’ve seen the ability of government oversight to protect the environment,” he said, citing the current crisis in the Gulf of Mexico.

After the public hearing, Gulley said he was on the commission in 1997, and two of the reasons he voted in favor of the case then were the two proffers Shoosmith is seeking to change.

“If I had to vote tonight, I would vote to deny, because it’s not what I know, it’s what I don’t know,” he said. “We need to get this right this time.”

The commission voted to defer the case to its July 20 meeting. Another public hearing will be held at that session.

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