Lillington, N.C. — A regional landfill that was rejected by the Harnett County Board of Adjustment last fall is dumping a potentially messy legal battle on the county and its residents.
Burlington-based 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 in September to reject the company's application for a special-use permit.
Now, Sandhills Environmental is suing the county, saying it was biased in its decision and didn't afford the company a fair hearing. The developer alleges that board members based their decision on factors they had no legal authority to consider, including concerns about public safety risks and neighboring property values.
The company said it met its burden of proof that the landfill would be safe and vowed to build wide buffers, berms and trees to limit the smell and other environmental impacts on neighbors.
Some Harnett County leaders were in favor of the landfill, saying it would bring in $2 million a year in fees that could help plug funding gaps for roads and schools.
But the people living near the proposed site say they're united against it.
"(People are talking about) how this is great for the county and why are people being selfish?" said a tearful Lisa Gilmore, who lives about 500 feet from the proposed landfill site. "Well, this is my home."
She said she and other homeowners in the Carolina Seasons neighborhood are raising money for their own attorney in the legal fight between the county and Sandhills Environmental. They plan to meet on the issue Tuesday evening.
"I can't stand by and let (the landfill) happen without going to court, without fighting as much as I can," Gilmore said.
Her neighbor, Penny Christman, said the lawsuit is causing a lot of distress for Carolina Seasons homeowners.
"It has ruined our lives already just worrying about this," she said. "We are trying as a group. We've become very united."