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Landfill company wins big in court

Judge Johnnie L Caldwell Jr. has seemingly ordered Lamar County to comply with a court order issued by Judge E. Byron Smith in May 2006 and zone property here for a construction and demolition landfill. The ruling, issued after a 70-minute hearing today, was a huge loss for the county and the commission immediately called an emergency meeting to discuss it. The meeting was convened in the law library at the courthouse and then immediately closed to the public. Attending were chairman Jay Matthews and commissioners Nancy Thrash, Jimmy Hearn and George Brown. County attorney Buddy Welch said that, before today’s hearing, he had filed a motion for immediate appeal but it appears that Carlyle now has a clear path to develop and operate an unlined C&D landfill on a site that the county says is a groundwater recharge area. Judge Caldwell largely brushed aside the argument of whether or not then county attorney Newton Galloway had the authority to bind the county to an agreement. Carlyle attorney George Butler argued that agreement, allowing the company to operate an inert landfill, was binding. Judge Caldwell seemed to affirm Judge Smith’s order that Lamar’s zoning regulations at the time of the application did not regulate C & D landfills and that the company had a vested right to operate. Smith ordered the county to supply Carlyle with a zoning compliance letter to permit a regional C & D landfill. “At this late date, that cannot be reversed. The zoning issue is over. It is a matter of fact and cannot be reversed,” the judge intoned. Judge Caldwell also dismissed the argument that the commission could not reach an agreement anywhere other than in Barnesville, the county seat. “Judge Smith’s residence is in Butts County. He told the parties to come to Butts County for clarification of alleged ambiguities in his order…The parties discussed it and reached an agreement that was read into the record…Judge Smith’s order already vested the company,” he ruled. Pending a written order from the judge, that language appears to go beyond clearing the inert landfill to ordering a certificate of zoning compliance for the C&D landfill. Or, it could be notice to the county and its legal team of things to come at hearings on the broader C&D landfill issue set for June 15-18 in Lamar superior court. Barring a successful appeal by the county, a settlement or a permit denial by Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division it appears a new, controversial landfill on 312 acres off Possum Trot Road in northeast Lamar County could become a reality. After the commission’s emergency meeting, it appeared the county may now be hanging its hat on an EPD permit denial. ”We have decided, after hearing from the citizens of Lamar County in the weeks leading up to this, to appeal the judge’s decision and prepare to make our case to the EPD,” Matthews said in a carefully-worded statement.

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