Lillington, N.C. — While Harnett County residents cheered the decision against a zoning change that would have allowed a regional landfill to open, county officials saw a steady revenue stream dry up.
Sandhills Environmental had planned to convert a 370-acre former sand mine off N.C. Highway 24/27 between Cameron and the Johnsonville community into a regional landfill. The county Board of Adjustment held six hearings and heard 26 hours of testimony on the issue before voting 3-2 Monday night to reject the company's application for a special-use permit.
Residents of the nearby Carolina Seasons subdivision fought hard against the landfill plan, saying truck traffic, noise and smell from the facility would lower their property values. They also argued that the landfill would pollute area streams and drinking water.
"We really took time to educate ourselves," resident Lisa Gilmore said. "It was heart-wrenching at times. You really didn't know what to expect."
Some Harnett County leaders saw the sand mine as a way to plug a hole in their finances. The county needs money for roads and schools, they said, and a landfill would have shoveled in $2 million a year in fees.
"That revenue could have done a lot of things for Harnett County," said Tim McNeill, chairman of the county Board of Commissioners.
Enrollment in area public schools is up by 440 students this year and is expected to continuing growing as both Fort Bragg and the Triangle grow, McNeill said. The county needs $146 million to build new schools in the future, he said.
Area voters already have rejected a quarter-cent local sales tax increase three times, and residents have loudly opposed any property tax increases, he said.
"People have rejected several things up to this point. I'm willing to listen to any other option," he said.
Matt Kirkpatrick, managing director of Burlington-based Sandhills Environmental, said the company met the burden of proof that their landfill is safe. Company officials haven't decided whether to appeal the Board of Adjustment's ruling, he said.
Gilmore said residents will work with county officials on finding other sources of revenue.
"If we need to do more, we need to do more," she said. "We don't need to accept trash for money."