It’s graduation season, meaning big banners celebrating college-bound seniors are a familiar sight outside metro Atlanta’s neighborhoods and subdivisions.
But in eastern Gwinnett, at the entrance to Kensington Forest, the vinyl sign is about trash — and pushing back against a proposal that would bring a new “solid waste transfer station” to the area.
“We’ve all made a pretty significant investments in our homes, what is that going to do to our property values?” said Larry Rose, president of the Kensington Forest homeowners association. “Nobody wants to get up and smell the smells of trash and hear the sounds of heavy machinery.”
Transfer stations are not landfills — they’re warehouse-style facilities where trash is stored prior to being moved to a landfill. That distinction isn’t insignificant, and four such facilities already exist in Gwinnett.
But residents of Kensington Forest and the hundreds of other homes near the 50-acre Loganville property targeted by Southern Sanitation say there are still plenty of reasons to oppose such an operation: the threats of noise, odors, pests and truck traffic in an area full of quiet subdivisions, schools and parks, for example.
And in the week-plus since neighbors of the potential station started hearing about the project slated for two-lane Ozora Road, they’ve formed an opposition Facebook group with more than 1,600 members; raised over $3,000 to pay an attorney to represent them; and passed out hundreds of flyers.
Melissa Kneiss, who lives in nearby Hampton Valley Estates, said the early resistance is just the beginning.
”This is our community. This is where we live,” she said. “If we don’t keep the momentum going, then they’re just going to run right over us.”
‘As far away as possible’
Applications for the so-called Ozora Road Solid Waste Transfer Station were filed earlier this month by landowner Darron Britt and partner Buddy Ray Johnson, the CEO of Southern Sanitation. They want to have the wooded property at 875 Ozora Road — about a mile south of the popular Tribble Mill Park and a few miles north of Gwinnett’s border with Walton County — to be rezoned from a residential use to “heavy industrial.” They’ll need a special use permit too.
An employee at Southern Sanitation’s Loganville office, a small suite tucked away in a brick office park, told the AJC on Tuesday that Johnson was out of town and unavailable to comment.
Shane Lanham, the attorney representing Johnson and Britt in the rezoning process, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Paperwork has been submitted to Gwinnett County and Georgia’s Department of Community Affairs, which will review the proposal as part of its Developments of Regional Impact process. The applications aren’t lengthy but provide at least a little insight into their approach to the project.
While the northern and western borders of the lot in question directly touch residential neighborhoods, the other side backs up to a quarry operated for years by Vulcan Materials. Lanham wrote in his application to the county that the waste station would be “located as far away from adjacent residential structures as possible and closest to the adjacent quarry.”
He proposed an undeveloped buffer of at least 100 feet where the property borders residential areas. He wrote that a stream cutting through the property would make the buffer “over 450 feet wide in spots.”
‘Substantial community opposition’
The proposed rezoning and special use permit is scheduled to be considered by the Gwinnett County planning commission in July. The group has already gotten an earful, chairman Chuck Warbington said.
“Substantial community opposition has already voiced many concerns to me related to this case,” he said. “The planning commission will ensure public input is considered as we complete our due diligence regarding this case.”
The vote of Warbington’s group and the findings of the Developments of Regional Impact process will serve as recommendations to the county’s Board of Commissioners, which would have final say. The board’s vote could come as early as a few weeks after the planning commission weighs in.
It appears that they too should be ready for residents to have their say.
“I would suspect that it’s gonna gain a lot of momentum, and I would suspect that there’s gonna be a lot of outcry as we go through this,” said Rose, the Kensington Forest HOA president. “It’s an emotional situation. Nobody wants to have trash in their backyard.”
Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism.