Appeal on proposed Rock Hill landfill rejected by SC high court

A North Carolina waste management company is moving forward with plans for a Rock Hill landfill after the state Supreme Court declined to rule on a case contesting the site.

On Wednesday, the Columbia court declined to issue a decision on an appeal filed by York County even though justices heard oral arguments from both sides on May 6.

The county has been locked in a legal battle with Cornelius, N.C.-based C&D Management since 2007, claiming that the company’s permit to operate in Rock Hill was improperly issued and went against county law and zoning.

Mike Griffin, an owner of C&D Management, said he was “extremely pleased” with the court’s announcement and hopes that it will prompt the county into a settlement on a separate, pending civil action where the company is seeking $15 million in damages.

Amy Armstrong, an attorney with the South Carolina Environmental Law Project that has represented the county on the appellant case, was unavailable Wednesday for comment.

Michael Kendree, York County’s staff attorney, declined to comment until all members of County Council were notified of the action.

The proposed site is expected to spark questions on how a new landfill will jibe with current county regulations that bar new construction dumps.

C&D received a permit from the state’s Department of Environmental and Health Control in February 2007 while the county was in the midst of updating its waste management plan that claimed no future construction and demolition landfills were needed. In issuing permits, DHEC must consider whether a proposed facility is needed.

At the time, the county hadn’t updated its waste plan since 1994, but staff members were aware of C&D’s intentions to open a waste facility as early as 2003. The 1994 plan noted a need for additional construction and demolition waste landfills to keep pace with the county’s population growth and rapid commercial development.

The landfill had initially been presented to the public during a rezoning hearing as a “recycling facility,” and didn’t mention the word “landfill,” prompting residential concerns and a separate short-lived lawsuit filed by a Rock Hill resident.

“There is a need to manage construction waste,” Griffin said, adding that his intention is not to collect full damages from the county, but to recoup legal fees and costs the company spent on siting the landfill and fighting the ban.

Griffin called the legal battle “a million-dollar drain” for all parties involved in the litigation, which includes his company, the county and DHEC. A DHEC attorney appeared before the state Supreme Court to re-enforce the agency’s decision to issue the permit.

The May hearing was the county’s second appeal on the matter, after the state Administrative Law Court and the Circuit Court of Appeals both ruled in favor of C&D.

Griffin said he plans to work with city of Rock Hill staff members to get the facility up and running and in compliance with city guidelines.

The proposed 130-acre site on Vernsdale Road is located in an industrial area that falls within city limits and is near the former Clariant Chemical Plant and ThermalKEM plant.