Potential trial date set for Stonecrest recycling plant case

Credit: Citizens for a Healthy and Safe Environment

Credit: Citizens for a Healthy and Safe Environment

A potential trial date has been set in the contentious battle over a concrete recycling plant in Stonecrest.

The case — which involves Metro Green Recycling, the city of Stonecrest, DeKalb County, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division and a grassroots activist group called Citizens for a Healthy and Safe Environment — is now scheduled to be tried the week of June 13.

DeKalb County Superior Court Judge Tangela Barrie made the decision during a Thursday afternoon hearing conducted via Zoom.

Metro Green, which operates at least three other facilities in Georgia, began construction on its new plant in the city of Stonecrest in early 2020. The project — which sits on 50 acres near Snapfinger Woods Drive and Miller Road — quickly prompted protests and concerns about noise, dust and health problems from residents of surrounding neighborhoods.

At the request of its City Council, Stonecrest filed a lawsuit trying to stop Metro Green in Aug. 2020. CHASE, the resident-led activist group, later joined on as a plaintiff.

The heart of the issue is how Metro Green obtained the EPD’s authorization for the new facility, which would recycle concrete and other construction materials.

According to court documents, Metro Green originally pitched the project to Stonecrest city leaders, who said they didn’t have the authority to recommend the EPD grant it a solid waste handling permit The city referred the company to DeKalb, but county officials denied the proposal because it didn’t comply with its Solid Waste Management Plan.

Metro Green then pitched the project — again — to Stonecrest. The city administration signed off that time, and the EPD followed suit.

Metro Green argues it followed proper channels to get permitted but, last month, Judge Barrie ordered construction on the plant to cease until the legal case is resolved.

Given the schedule Barrie laid out during Thursday’s hearing, that may not be until next summer. But another important ruling could come down in the next two weeks.

That’s the timeframe in which Barrie said she intends to rule on a counterclaim filed by Metro Green.

The recycling firm filed that counterclaim against CHASE in January, effectively accusing the community activist group of committing slander while raising concerns about the new plant.

CHASE, which is represented by attorneys from the Southern Environmental Law Center, has moved to dismiss the claim under Georgia’s anti-SLAPP — or “strategic lawsuits against public participation” — statute.

  • Nov. 8, 2016

    Residents in south DeKalb County voted to form Stonecrest. Jason Lary would soon be elected as the city’s first mayor.

  • June 17, 2018

    Metro Green Recycling contacted Tracy Hutchinson, the DeKalb Sanitation Division Director, to pitch a construction and demolition recycling facility project. She denied the request, saying it isn’t consistent with the county’s Solid Waste Management Plan.

  • Oct. 31, 2018

    Michael Harris, Stonecrest’s former city manager, wrote a letter to the state Environmental Protection Division (EPD) that said Metro Green’s plans complied with the city’s zoning laws and county’s solid waste plan. Lary previously sent letters approving the project in May 2018.

  • Dec. 3, 2018

    The EPD received Metro Green’s application for a solid waste handling permit, which includes references to the Stonecrest letters of approval.

  • Oct. 1, 2019

    The EPD, overseen by Director Richard Dunn, issues the permit.

  • July 1, 2020

    Lary issued a stop-work order on the construction on Metro Green. However, he removed the stop-work order 13 days later, citing fears of potential legal action.

  • Aug. 6, 2020

    At the request of the City Council, Stonecrest filed a temporary restraining order lawsuit against Metro Green and DeKalb County to try to stop ongoing construction. The EPD and Dunn would be added as defendants in September.

  • Dec. 30, 2020

    The Citizens for a Healthy and Safe Environment (CHASE), a citizen advocacy group, was added as a plaintiff.

  • Feb. 5, 2021

    CHASE files a motion for a temporary restraining order, attempting to stop current and future construction at the Metro Green site.

  • Sept. 15, 2021

    DeKalb Superior Court Judge Tangela Barrie granted CHASE’s motion for a temporary restraining order, preventing Metro Green from continuing work on the site until the case concludes.