York County staff continues to look for a new trash and recycling collection site in Fort Mill, narrowing options as the Sept. 24 closing of an existing site looms.
Eric Rekitt, county public works director, said the county received two “somewhat good proposals” for property to replace the Fort Mill East Collection & Recycling Center at 964 Tom Hall St. A lease on that property expired this summer, sending the county scrambling for a replacement site.
One possibility is a 4.5-acre site at Fort Mill Parkway and West Hensley Road with two homes on it. The county could acquire it through a land swap, sending the owner a nearby site that won’t work for the collection center.
“This is the one we’re leaning toward at this point,” Rekitt said.
The other is a 4.74-acre site at Kimbrell Crossing Drive and Kimbrell Road, adjacent to the closing site. It would offer two acres of usable land for the center. There is a home there, but the owner is prepared to sell. The site meets up to the Kimbrell Crossing subdivision.
“They want to sell,” Rekitt said. “They have approached me.”
The county first looked at three acres west of Fort Mill Parkway, across from East Hensley Road, obtained as right-of-way for the new bypass. Setbacks would leave only about a half-acre for the collection center.
“Ultimately that will not work,” Rekitt said.
Most other options presented by landowners wouldn’t work, either. The county needs at minimum four or five acres to meet required buffers and setbacks. The county also wants a purchase, not another lease deal.
“Most didn’t meet the criteria,” Rekitt said.
Several landowners reached out with lease proposals, but the surprise closing of the existing site has the county looking for something more definite.
“We do not want to be in this predicament again,” Rekitt said.
The county leased its existing site annually. The lease expired July 31. County staff found out June 7 the property was under contract for development by Carolinas HealthCare Systems. The county negotiated a lease extension through the end of September.
“In our normal negotiations with the owner we went to him,” Rekitt said, referring to Michael Chase, president of Kanawha Properties. “That’s when we surprisingly found out that he had actually sold the property and he’d be closing on it, and he wasn’t willing go another year on the lease.”
Rekitt said it wasn’t the county’s intention to close its existing site.
“We’ve asked him several times over the years to purchase the property,” he said. “(Chase) wasn’t interested. This site was working. It’s already built, it was there, the residents like it there.”
The county even had money budgeted this year to purchase a third collection site in Fort Mill, joining the closing site and one near Baxter. Leaving the eastern side of Fort Mill without a site isn’t an option, Rekitt said.
“We need to replace this site in this area,” he said. “The need is there.”
The county will have to decommission the closing site, leaving it natural. Permits will be needed for demolition. The property owner offered two sites nearby, but both were lease deals. Only two of the county collection sites – including Baxter through 2019 – are leased and the county wants to negotiate purchases for both.
For now, the more pressing task sits east of Fort Mill. Once the county selects a site, Council would have to zone it for public use. A public hearing and single reading on the zoning could come as early as Oct. 17. Then come appraisals, a land swap agreement and design work before the county can build.
“That’s going to take some time,” Rekitt said, “so the next step is, is a temporary site going to work?”
The county could use the same site temporarily through a lease, until closing. That move still would take a rezoning and county land use variances. Some existing services may be be allowed, and smaller collection boxes would be used. There wouldn’t initially be trash compaction, costing the county mileage and time.
Employees at the site will continue working for the county regardless of what comes next. Residents using the collection service can use the Baxter site or others in the county, Rekitt said.
County Councilwoman Christi Cox represents the area where the soon-to-be decommissioned site sits.
“I’ve been getting several calls about this,” she said. “Obviously purchase is better. I agree with that. I think the thing that makes it difficult, though, is we need a more definite timeline.”
Cox pressed for more information ahead of Oct. 17. She wanted a plan ready by the upcoming Council meeting where residents can see what is happening and ask questions. The next scheduled meeting comes Sept. 19.
Cox compared the situation to other “emergency” issues the county faced in the past. Any holdups in getting a new site up and running shouldn’t be from the county, she said.
“I would hope we would dispense with bureaucracy,” Cox said. “Because to dump all of this into Baxter is going to be a tremendous problem.”
Residents are planning changes to their routine for disposing of trash and recyclables. Some aren’t happy about it.
“They’re just not doing their job,” said Joey McCutcheon. “They should have had a plan in place before the lease ever came up.”
McCutcheon is a Foxwood resident who has trash pick up but hauls some items to the collection centers. He also helps take out the trash to another home nearby that doesn’t have pick up service. McCutcheon believes older residents, in particular, could have a harder time as the county plots its next step.
“A lot of people depend on it, and have been depending on it,” he said.