By Kathi Bliss
“We have the right to have our environment protected.”
That message has come through loud and clear to the Caldwell County Commissioners, who have been under increasing pressure from grassroots group, Environmental Protection in Caldwell County” (EPICC) to pass an ordinance that would restrict landfill development in Caldwell County.
Known as a “siting ordinance,” the discussions began as a reaction to the announcement that Georgia-based Green Group Holdings, LLC, has arranged an option on 1,260 acres at the intersection of SH-130 and FM 1185 in Caldwell County, with site development plans that include a 250-acre municipal solid waste landfill.
Though the proposed ordinance does not specifically address the project, the 130 Environmental Park, supporters of the ordinance hope that it will block the Green Group Development.
“TCEQ will not take into account the need for this landfill,” said Robin Schneider with the Texas Campaign for the Environment, who has been working with EPICC to block the landfill. Schneider cited a recent study that suggests an abundance of landfill space in Central Texas, and encouraged the Commissioners to take the regional aspect of the development into consideration.
Other supporters of the ordinance cited the Green Group project specifically, imploring Commissioners to consider the impact of having the landfill so near their homes, and at the “gateway to Caldwell County.”
However, a provision of the state statute that allows Caldwell County to restrict landfill development in certain areas also requires that a specific site be approved for landfill development.
That site, in the proposed ordinance, is the 18-acre property currently serving as the county’s gravel pit, located on Seawillow Road near the intersection of FM 1322. The subject property is near at least two rural cemeteries and several residences, and is situated between the Clear Fork Plum Creek and Plum Creek proper.
However, experts agree that an 18-acre site would be an unlikely fit for landfill development.
The full text of the ordinance, which will come forward for a public hearing during the regular meeting of the Caldwell County Commissioners on Dec. 9, is available Here.
Questions remain, however, as to whether the ordinance will prevent the development of the Green Group project, or simply prevent additional landfills from being developed in their wake.
As noted by the County’s civil attorney Mack Harrison in a recent meeting, state statutes prevent a county from blocking a landfill site that is already pending permitting through the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). The Green Group has filed two parts of the four-part application, which Harrison said puts their application in a “pending” status and would allow the project to be grandfathered under any proposed ordinance now.
However, opponents of the facility note that, because all four parts of the application have not been submitted, the County may have a legal leg to stand on as to the “pending” status with TCEQ, and the ordinance could help prevent the facility.
The Commissioners and Harrison have spent extensive time in executive session over the last several weeks discussing the matter, and additional developments are expected to continue as the ordinance process and the permitting process move forward.
In brief news:
The Commissioners discussed changes to their current personnel policies regarding comp, holiday and overtime pay. In the past, employees have been able to roll comp and holiday hours, and have them paid out upon request. However, Harrison said that policy was not in line with state statutes, and suggested changes to the policy to rectify the diversions from state code.
They approved the construction of a workstation for bailiffs in the Caldwell County Courthouse, which will be outfitted with a computer and surveillance equipment.
Discussion regarding selling the County’s Genie lift located at the Courthouse led to a plan to consider the sale of the underutilized equipment, with the proceeds of the sale being used for other heavy equipment that will be more useful to the Unit Road System.
The Caldwell County Commissioners Court routinely meets on the second, third and fourth Monday of each month at 9 a.m. in the Conference and Training Room at the LW Scott Annex, 1403 Blackjack St., in Lockhart. However, because of the Thanksgiving holiday, they have chosen to forego their Nov. 25, 2013, meeting. The next meeting will be held on Monday, Dec. 9, 2013. Meetings are open to the public and webcast on the county website, www.co.caldwell.tx.us.