Citizens voice concerns about green waste site at commission meeting

Published 9:00 am Wednesday, March 6, 2024

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The Chambers County Commission chambers were packed on Monday night. Around 20 individuals came to discuss the green waste site located on US-431 North, near LaFayette. 

The commission purchased 35 acres of land in the area, to create a green waste site to be used exclusively by the county highway department for green debris, such as logs, brush and other materials. 

The group of citizens that came had Brandon Clifton speak on their behalf. Brandon said that because the site will be a burn site, where the green waste is disposed of through controlled burns, the citizens were concerned about the effects of the smoke. He added that the dump trucks and visuals of a waste site are less than ideal for the locals. 

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“[Smoke] is not something you want to breathe every day when you come home from a hard day’s work,” Brandon said. 

He asked if the commission would consider relocating the site, potentially selling the land to community members, or passing an ordinance to not have the rest of the land bought to be used for the waste site. 

“There are a lot of concerned citizens who would like an opportunity to voice their concerns and maybe their showing up tonight would plead that case, but if there’s anything that the commission would do, we would appreciate it,” Brandon finished.

After Brandon spoke, Williams opened up the floor for public comment. 

Clint Allen, another local resident who bought property near Brandon’s, addressed the commission. 

“We just bought a piece of property below Brandon’s. Had we known this was coming, I wouldn’t have spent over $100,000… If this goes through, I’m not gonna build the house and the land will go up for sale because you’re devaluing my property. Everybody in here’s property is going to be devalued,” Allen said. 

After Allen, Michael Clifton, brother of Brandon, got up to speak. 

“We all have little kids that we’re trying to raise out there and do not want to turn down our road every day and see a FEMA dump site right next to our houses,” Michael said.

Michael continued saying that the community did not know the site was going to be there until the land was sold. 

“It may be how this ordeal operates, I’m not sure. But no one knew about it. Nobody knew that this was coming. We just saw little blue county signs pop up in the middle of a cotton field,” Michael said. “It just seemed very sneaky. Like I said, that may not be the intent. And certainly I’m not trying to run through ruffling feathers. But it does seem very sneaky.” 

He said after seeing the signs he called the commission, who Michael said ‘dumbed it down and would never see anything out there.”

Michael asked why the commission needed 35 acres if they were only going to use 15 for the waste site. He and other members of the audience expressed concern for the waste site expanding into the unused area and becoming more intrusive. 

After the members of the public spoke, Commission Chairman James Williams addressed the crowd. 

“We did not need 35. All we needed was 15 acres,” Williams explained. “This has been an ongoing project that has been discussed in these chambers for the last, I know, year and a half.”

The chairman said the land is to be used to dispose of waste during severe weather conditions and having the extra land in case there is a disaster could be useful.

“No, it will not be smoke every day, every week, every month — just when we get enough debris on the back part [of the land], it will be disposed of. The front side is going to be left alone. The only way you will end up seeing debris in that front is if we had an Eloise or Opal [Hurricane] come through and the debris builds up faster than we can dispose of it,” Williams said. 

He continued, “If we had an Opal or Eloise [Hurricane] come through, you would be hollering at us to get [debris] off the edge of the road.”

Williams addressed the suggestion of zoning the land to make sure the site does not exceed the 15 acres of intended use saying he was open to suggestions. Williams said the county has no power to zoning, that lies within the city’s power.

He added, “How many of y’all want us to put limitations on what you can do with your land?”

Allen asked if the community could get the promise the site would only be used for green waste and that the cities would not be using the site, in writing. County Attorney Skip McCoy replied that the only thing that is put in writing is who owns the land and that the owner will comply with the law, “In regard to the operation of the property.”

Allen added that he works in storm management and has seen FEMA dump sites where there is more than green waste. County Engineer Josh Harvill said the intent was to only deposit tree debris even during emergencies. At that point, multiple members of the public expressed concern for the term “intent,” worrying the site would see other material dumped in it.  

Soon after, County Attorney Skip McCoy suggested that Williams pass the issue to a committee for further study.

“For you, as an individual to sit there and say what the county commission might want to do is putting you at an unfair advantage with all the other commissioners not having a chance to voice what their opinions might be,” McCoy said.  

Williams asked for a meeting of the public facilities and infrastructure committee for March 18 to be scheduled at 2 p.m. CT to address the green waste site further with the public.