The Board of Zoning Appeals meeting was standing room only on Thursday afternoon for the consideration of a controversial Bellevue landfill project. But after a two-hour hearing, the BZA deferred a decision until July 19 to allow for a traffic study and Metro Public Works input.
At the center of the discussion is the proposed 81-acre landfill surrounded by residential properties. Mickey Mitchell, the developer, is attempting to change the zoning of the site, at 7739 Charlotte Pike, for disposing of “construction and demolition” products like dry wall, shingles, lumber and other waste.
Mitchell offered Public Works three acres of the land to be used as a public recycling facility.
At a meeting hosted by Metro Councilwoman Sheri Weiner earlier this year, the developers and other members of Metro government discussed the project. Weiner said there was no opposition from her constituency at that meeting.
But a few weeks ago, Weiner switched her position after residents started to grumble about the proposed plans. So the councilwoman withdrew her support of the project, claiming it always “hinged on neighborhood response.” She showed up wearing an anti-landfill sticker at the hearing.
BZA chairman Chris Whitson said the board received 140 letters opposing the project — and the capacity crowd sporting green T-shirts numbered more than 150.
Mitchell’s attorney Tom White told the board that they had received approval through all the necessary avenues — including Metro’s Planning Commission and Solid Waste Region Board.
Former Metro councilman and attorney Jamie Hollin represented several neighbors who oppose the project and called Mitchell’s plan “the ultimate Trojan horse.” According to Hollin, the Public Works department backed the plan because it included a much-needed “recycling convenience center.” However, later documents mention the separate recycling center as only a “drop-off facility,” according to Hollin.
There are currently 13 drop-off facilities in Davidson County and only three collection centers — meaning there seemingly isn't much need for another drop.
“Drop-off site, collection centers, convenience centers, recycling facilities, all of this is simply word soup designed to disguise why we are here today,” Hollin said. “The reason we are here is to determine whether or not we need a third C and D landfill in Davidson County.”
In other words, Hollin maintains that Public Works signed off on the plan under false premonitions of what they were getting. The wording also matters when it comes to zoning. If the proposed recycling facility is a convenience center, it has to be zoned industrial, according to Hollin.
Whitson suggested that he’d like to hear from Public Works before he made a decision.
The debate also surrounded the “general” conditions the plan has to abide by, which includes broad questions of whether the project is compatible with the surrounding area.
Hollin suggested that some of the waste could contain asbestos and might be a health hazard to the community. BZA member David Harper countered that argument by saying the board signs off on house construction projects by requiring — not enforcing — that the builders don’t use lead-based paint.
Whitson suggested before the meeting even began that it would be up to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation to decide specific environmental issues related to the project.
The opposers of the landfill also requested that the BZA complete a traffic study before approving it. White previously mentioned the expected traffic of 50 dump trucks wouldn’t have much of an impact on the 4,000 vehicles traveling that stretch of Charlotte Pike in a day.
At the end of the hearing, Whitson motioned for the board to defer the meeting until July 19 in order to receive input from Public Works and complete the traffic study. Richard King, David Ewing, Whitson, and Mercedes Jones voted in favor of the motion, while Harper abstained. BZA members David Taylor and Stacey Garrett were absent from the meeting.
The final vote on the landfill issue will be at 1 p.m. on July 19.