New­ton County set­tles re­gional land­fill dis­pute

The Covington News - - LOCAL - STAFF RE­PORTS news@cov­

New­ton County has reached a set­tle­ment agree­ment with East Ge­or­gia Land and De­vel­op­ment Com­pany that pre­vents the con­struc­tion of a re­gional land­fill near Lower River Road.

The agree­ment in­cludes the com­pany do­nat­ing its ap­prox­i­mately 424 acres of land lo­cated near the New­ton County Land­fill and the Yel­low River to the county with the re­stric­tion that it not be used for a land­fill or in­dus­trial pur­poses.

Though New­ton County will have to pay $10 mil­lion to East Ge­or­gia Land in the set­tle­ment, the county avoids the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact of a large pri­vate re­gional land­fill such as one pro­posed by East Ge­or­gia Land. The com­pany pur­chased the prop­erty in 1997 with the in­ten­tion of cre­at­ing a re­gional land­fill. That re­quest was de­nied by New­ton County’s zon­ing ad­min­is­tra­tor cit­ing a 1985 or­di­nance. A record of the or­di­nance, how­ever, could not be found and years of East Ge­or­gia Land prompted le­gal bat­tles en­sued.

In 2012, New­ton County Su­pe­rior Court Judge Sa­muel Ozburn ruled in fa­vor of New­ton County cit­ing a zon­ing or­di­nance map cre­ated in July of 1985. That rul­ing was over­turned in 2014 by the Supreme Court of Ge­or­gia, which said the or­di­nance was in­valid be­cause the zon­ing map was not at­tached to the or­di­nance upon its cre­ation in May of 1985.

East Ge­or­gia Land con­tin­ued its pur­suit of a com­pli­ance let­ter to build the land­fill and filed an in­verse con­dem­na­tion claim for di­min­ished value on the prop­erty from the time of its pur­chase in 1997.

New­ton County was close to a deal two years ago in which it would have pur­chased the land for $8.5 mil­lion and then leased all land­fill prop­erty to a com­pany to be de­vel­oped into a re­gional land­fill. How­ever, the board of com­mis­sion­ers at that time voted against turn­ing its land­fill over to a pri­vate com­pany for the pur­poses of re­gional use.

“This is good for the cit­i­zens of New­ton County be­cause we won’t have to worry about a re­gional land­fill in our com­mu­nity,” said New­ton County Chair­man Mar­cello Banes of the agree­ment. “Now our roads and in­fras­truc­ture won’t be dam­aged and there won’t be a lot of trash com­ing in from dif­fer­ent ar­eas of the state and im­pact­ing our com­mu­nity. “

In the last two years New­ton County and East Ge­or­gia have been work­ing to re­solve the is­sue, in which New­ton County was seek­ing to pre­vent de­vel­op­ment of a large re­gional land­fill.

On Mon­day, April 10, a set­tle­ment was signed that con­cludes the county’s re­la­tion­ship with East Ge­or­gia Land once dam­ages are paid, puts years of le­gal costs to an end and pre­vents a costly lit­i­ga­tion with an un­known out­come. The New­ton County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers will vote to ap­prove the set­tle­ment agree­ment dur­ing Tues­day’s pub­lic meet­ing at 7 p.m. in the New­ton County His­toric Court­house.

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