The land is located next to several residential subdivisions, where residents have called on the city to halt the project over environmental concerns. Residents and some city council members also said they weren’t properly notified of the plans for the recycling plant. The council did not have to vote on the project because the land was already zoned for industrial use.
The state Environmental Protection Division issued a solid waste permit to Metro Green last year, after Lary and the former city manager wrote letters in 2018 approving of the project, according to copies of the letters obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“We look forward to Metro Green bringing its operation to the city of Stonecrest and contributing to the economic development of our city,” the mayor wrote in a May 2018 letter to the company.
In a separate letter from October 2018, the then-city manager wrote to the state that Metro Green’s plans complied with the city’s zoning laws and DeKalb County’s solid waste plan.
However, DeKalb’s sanitation director Tracy Hutchinson wrote in emails to EPD officials and a Metro Green consultant that the plans for the plant were not consistent with the county’s solid waste management plan, according to copies of the emails provided to the AJC. An EPD official said during a recent town hall meeting that the permit was ultimately approved because Stonecrest had jurisdiction over the site, which is within city limits.
In an interview Wednesday, Lary said the city has “followed the law” in allowing the development, but he said he could not speak to the city manager’s letter specifically.
The Stonecrest City Council voted last week to create a committee to investigate the situation and the company’s permits. State Sen. Emanuel Jones, who represents the area, has called on the state to revoke the permit, arguing it was issued under false pretenses.
“Things happened that never should have happened,” said Jones, who has sparred with the mayor in the past. “The mistakes are obvious.”
The stop-work order was first issued due to a “discrepancy” in the company’s adherence to the county’s solid waste plan, the city said in a statement.
City attorney Winston Denmark said Metro Green sent a letter to the city recently warning of possible legal action if they kept the stop-work order in place, prompting the mayor to allow construction to continue.
“We appreciate the city lifting the stop work order. Metro Green has and will continue to comply with all provisions of our EPD permit, state law, the local zoning ordinance and other regulations,” Bernie Tokarz, a consultant working with Metro Green, said in a statement. The company has not said publicly when the facility might open.
Renee Cail, who leads a Stonecrest citizen’s group focused on environmental safety, said the city’s initial support of the project — and Lary’s recent lifting of the stop-work order — “makes me question the mayor’s commitment to having a city that is of the highest quality.”
Pyper Bunch lives in the subdivision located across the street from the development, just outside of Stonecrest city limits in unincorporated DeKalb County. She said she was surprised when, one day, she saw the industrial construction beginning on the site. She is worried about dust and pollution coming from the recycling plant.
“This is morally wrong to do this to us,” Bunch said.
Metro Green has said it will install a large berm with trees to surround the property and lower noise and that it will not take in any hazardous or toxic materials. It is also required to have a dust and odor control plan, and said it will install its entrance on Snapfinger Woods Drive instead of the more residential Miller Road.
DeKalb County District 5 Commissioner Mereda Davis Johnson, who represents the part of the county that includes Stonecrest, said in a tweet Wednesday that she was “saddened to see that the mayor chose a waste transfer station plant over the citizens of the 5th.”
In an interview earlier this week, Davis Johnson said she is not sure what caused the “miscommunication” over the permit. But she said the county’s sanitation director “made it very clear, in bold unequivocal language, that this is not consistent with what we want in DeKalb.”