Eutaw City Council approves rezoning of Sumter Veneer site: Residents considering environmental lawsuit

By John Zippert, Co-Publisher

 At its regular meeting on Tuesday, September 14, 2010, the Eutaw City Council voted 4 to 2 to approve a zoning change ordinance from M-1 (light industry) to M-2 (heavy industry) for Elam Properties to develop a metal and tire recycling yard on the former site of Sumter Veneer on O’Neal Street in Eutaw Council members Hattie Edwards, Ralph Liverman, David Spencer and Sheila H. Smith voted in favor of the ordinance. Mayor Raymond Steele and Councilman Joe L. Powell voted against. Before the vote was taken, the Council held an executive session to discuss the wording of the ordinance. City Attorney Mike Smith said the closed session was held because of “possible potential litigation.”

The residents living in the area surrounding the proposed industrial site have opposed the City’s adoption of the zoning change. In the public comment period many voiced their dissatisfaction with the majority of the City Council who voted in favor of the change.

Linda Davis, a neighboring resident said, “Our position on this project has not changed. We are going to take other steps to block this rezoning. We do not want this harmful project in our community. We plan to bring in an environmentalist and environmental organizations to help us fight this project legally and any other way we can.”Thomas Morris, another resident said, “This City Council does not listen to us. You keep reminding me of the 1960’s, when the people had no choice but to say ‘yes’ and agree to things, even if they didn’t like them. Now we should be able to say ‘no’ and you public officials should listen to us.“All we want is peace and quiet –  but by bringing this industry – you are trying to finish us off. You are not listening. You do not care about us.”

Rosie Carpenter, a community leader for whom a subdivision adjoining the industrial site is named, said, “You have disregarded your own zoning board in making this decision which opens up the whole city to these harmful industries. We do not want this change. And we do not appreciate your making this change in our community when you would not want this same industry in your neighborhood of the city.”

Ron Edwards another resident said, “We do not want this in our community. Why don’t you find a more suitable location somewhere else in the county which will not be close to residential areas.”

Shantrelle Glenn, a Eutaw resident who regularly attends the City Council meetings, defended the project saying, “This project is not a junkyard. It is a recycling center. This will help us clean up abandoned cars and tires in the city and the county.”

The Council members who voted for the project have defended it in prior meetings to vote on the ordinance.

In other actions, the Eutaw City Council:

* Postponed a decision on a new water rate schedule for Southfresh Catfish Processing until they have a chance to review and evaluate a proposal from the company.

  *Postponed consideration of a resolution supporting re-organization of the Greene County Industrial Board to an Industrial Authority pending review of the resolution by the attorneys.

  * Approved payment of bills with the exception of the garbage collection invoice from Waste Management, pending a comparison of the bill with the actual number of households provided with service. Mayor Steele announced that Waste Management would collect large items, e.g., appliances, furniture, only the first week of each month; and that Waste Management would collect household garbage on a new schedule of only three days a week on Tuesday-Thursdays. A fuller notice will be given to residents by mail and newspaper ads.

*The Mayor was given permission to seek bids for re-roofing the City Hall and closing Well No. 2 which is mandated by ADEM, a state agency.

 *Heard concerns from Angela Gray concerning a tree and a ditch adjoining her house; Shirley Watson complained about flooding on Highway 43; and Priscilla Turner, a 911 dispatcher, asked the Council about support for the emergency services program which is running out of funds and may soon need to lay off half of its workers.

 * Agreed to hold a Finance Committee meeting in the next two weeks to develop an operating budget for the upcoming  fiscal year.

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