Wake commissioners reject landfill expansion

jshaffer@newsobserver.comJune 19, 2012 

Wake County commissioner Joe Bryan

— Wake County commissioners rejected a request Monday to triple the construction waste dumped at the Shotwell Landfill and to accept refuse from Durham and Orange counties. The move thrilled neighbors worried about traffic, noise and water quality.

By a unanimous vote, commissioners turned down allowing an increase from 91,250 tons to 273,750 tons a year at the private landfill in the county’s southeastern corner. They cited a history of bad relations with Shotwell and a compelling need to protect residents.

“It’s bad news for this area of the county, and for people trying to make a life there,” Commissioner Joe Bryan said. “I don’t feel like they’ve been a good partner.”

Last year, Shotwell saw commissioners reject more ambitious expansion, quadrupling its daily intake and allowing waste from 15 counties. Raleigh attorney Philip Isley described the latest scaled-back plan as a good deal, because the landfill would fill and close more quickly.

Even after tripling the intake, Isley said, Shotwell would have a comparatively small load.

But commissioners said they were more swayed by the parade of people living around Smithfield and Mial Plantation roads, who described constant disruption from dump trucks and an eyesore that rises taller than trees.

Bryan also noted that Shotwell added 50 acres to the site after saying it would be closed. And last year, the landfill failed to mention that it had applied to state regulators to accept industrial waste.

“I see too much benefit to the individual owning the business and too little for the community,” Commissioner Erv Portman said.

No vote on transit

The bulk of Monday’s 5.5-hour meeting, though, went to discussions of a regional transit plan, which commissioners voted against placing on a November ballot for a countywide vote.

Durham County voters have already voted to expand their transit services, and it’s on the ballot in Orange County this fall. All 12 Wake County mayors want the plan to go to referendum, and several town councils have passed resolutions asking for the measure to be placed on the ballot. The plan would increase bus service immediately, with light rail and rush-hour trains to come in later years.

For nearly two hours Monday, speakers rose asking the board for a chance to vote on expanded public transit, which the three Democrats on the board have sought and the four Republicans have rejected.

“I think even some people who don’t like transit think it’s time to vote,” said Anne Franklin of Capital Area Friends of Transit. “Delay says that we are afraid of the public.”

Voting along party lines, commissioners turned down a request from Portman to get a plan to voters by the end of July. Fellow Democrats Betty Lou Ward and James West spoke in favor of letting the public vote. The four Republicans made no comments before the 4-3 vote against Portman’s motion.

“Wake has always led the region,” Portman said, “and tonight, we’re not leading.”

Also Monday, the board approved a $941.5 million budget for the upcoming fiscal year. It includes $318 million for Wake public schools. The budget does not include a tax increase for county residents.

Shaffer: 919- 829-4818

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