Giving public a voice with landfill proposals

LANCASTER COUNTY, SC (WIS) - The day after a mega-dump was defeated in Lancaster County, WIS News 10 found out a state lawmaker wants to change the way the public learns about landfill proposals.

Representative Jay Lucas represents Lancaster County. He said he is filing two bills related to landfill permits. One deals with curbing the amount of "out of state" trash South Carolina takes in every year. The other addresses how and when the public learns a county is in talks with a landfill developer.

A grassroots effort to keep a landfill out of Lancaster County came out on top.

Not only did it show a community can take on powerful people and win, but it exposed how government can keep vital information out of the public's view.

On January 2nd, Gary Horton, Phyllis Hickman and others learned a landfill was close to approval for the land. "We knew nothing," said Hickman.

The news hit only days from a zoning hearing where the deal may have be sealed. But the weather stepped in. "We got about 10 inches of snow up here," said Horton, "It was like divine intervention."

The January snowstorm postponed the hearing, and it was rescheduled weeks later. Horton said it was the help he and neighbors needed because they got little help from their county council.

Back in August, "Griffin Brothers" submitted a rezoning request for land it owned. Council record showed Mike Griffin said the company planned to have an organic farm on the land. But there was no mention of a sanitary landfill. His request was given initial approval. The vote was unanimous. Public notices went out, but there was no mention of a "landfill." The county planner stood by the wording.

In November and December, council changed another ordinance. It changed the distance a landfill could be from homes. What was once one mile now was 1,000 feet. The decision effected families, like Hickman because the landfill would go next door. "No one wants a landfill in their yard," said Hickman.

In December, during Christmas, council entered into an agreement with "Griffin Brothers." It was called "Project December" and was filed under economic development. Horton said that kept it out of public view.

Now fast-forward to this Tuesday, two days before the zoning hearing. Council voted to reverse the decision, changing the distance a landfill could be from a home.

Wednesday. WIS News 10 started asking questions to council and members of the community. Then Thursday, hours before the Zoning Board met, "Griffin Brothers" withdrew the landfill application, citing council's decision to change the distance back to one mile.

There were cheers from the community, leaving people, like Horton, feeling proud to call Lancaster County home. "It makes you feel good that people care about their community and care about the way of life we have here in Lancaster," he said.

Both the county administrator and county planner said the county followed the law when dealing with the landfill proposal.

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