Residents dispute Eutaw Council decision to rezone Sumter Veneer site for new industry

At Tuesday’s Eutaw City Council meeting, the Council voted 3 – 1 to  support a new ordinance to change the zoning of the former Sumter Veneer site from M-1 (light industry) to M-2 (heavy industry) to accommodate Elam Properties that wants to use the site for a scrap metal and tire recycling business.

Residents of the area were upset with the Council’s decision and voiced their opposition during the public comment period.

The Council overrode the decision of its Planning and Zoning Commission to deny the zoning variance. Council members: Sheila H. Smith, Hattie Edwards and Ralph Liverman voted for the motion introducing the ordinance change. Councilman Joe Lee Powell voted against the motion. Councilman David Spencer was absent. Mayor Raymond Steele also opposed the zoning change.

A final vote on the ordinance changing zoning will be held at the next Eutaw City Council meeting on Tuesday, August 24, 2010.

Linda Davis a resident of the area adjoining the plant said the Council was unconcerned about the residents living in the area. “We will be subjected to constant noise, dust and dirt from the operations which will only bring a few new jobs to the city.”

Rosie Carpenter asked the Council, “Why do you want to put this in our community? Why do you put harmful things in the Black community? Why don’t you put this in the white community or somewhere out of town where it will not affect people.” Mrs. Carpenter also pointed out that Sheila Smith had objected to the Catholic Church opening an after-school program for mostly Black children in a building across from her house.

Ronald Edwards, a resident of Rosie Carpenter Haven, a subdivision of new single family homes that back up to the Sumter Veneer property, said, “This will take down the value of our new homes and no one else will want to build homes in the city for fear that a junkyard will be built next to them.”

Woody Browder, former owner of Sumter Veneer, speaking for three generations of his family said, “We wanted to bring in a new industry. We would never do anything to hurt the people in the community.” Mrs. Carpenter asked him where he lived. Browder said he lived in West Greene and left the meeting.  

Representatives of Elam Properties said they had investigated several alternative sites but none were as well located or had a building like the Sumter Veneer site which is why they were pursuing it.

Councilwoman Hattie Edwards defended her vote for the change in the zoning ordinance saying, “We need a recycling facility like this in Greene County.“I have visited several similar plants with the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) where they crush and cut up cars and other metal scrap as well as shredding tires. None of these places make any more noise and pollution than Sumter Veneer used to. In fact, Sumter Veneer was M-2 but since it was there before the City adopted a zoning ordinance it was grandfathered in with M-1 zoning. We have more than 20 illegal dumps with metal and tires in the County and this facility will help us cleanup.”

About 30 residents of the City left the meeting upset, vowing to return to the next meeting and trying to change the minds of the council-members in the interim.

In other business, the Eutaw City Council:

* Heard a report from Grady Parsons, a consultant who did a preliminary study of the water and wastewater rates for the Southfresh Catfish Plant. He suggested contacting Alabama Rural Water Association to get comparable rates since neighboring towns of Greensboro and Marion charge their fish processing plants on a residential rather than agricultural or commercial rate schedule.

* Approved paying all outstanding bills except that only $17,404 be paid to Waste Management for 1230 garbage carts at $14.15 each, instead of the $19,500 billed for 1669 carts.

* Councilman Joe Lee Powell objected to a veterinary bill for the police dog. Chief Strickland defended the dog as a hard working dog. Powell asked the Chief to let him know when the dog was working so he could see for himself.

* Approved $10,000 to support E-911 services and agreed to include E-911 in the upcoming fiscal year budget in response to a request from Johnny Isaac, Chair of the Board of Directors of E-911.

* Approved a request from Assistant Chief Luther Davis for an increase in fees for traffic accident reports from $5 to $10.

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