THE ISSUE: A large company wants to build a landfill for recycled material in northern Brunswick County; the town of Navassa supports it while others do not.
WHATâ€™S NEW: A second legislative proposal, offered this time by Sen. R.C. Soles, D-Columbus, would likely make the project impossible by transferring control of the land from Navassa to the Brunswick County commissioners.
WHATâ€™S NEXT: The Senate will debate and vote on the bill. If approved, it would need approval in the House before becoming law.
RALEIGH | The Brunswick County Commissioners could turn their opposition to the Hugo Neu landfill and recycling project into action under a bill filed Thursday in the General Assembly.
With little prior notice, state Sen. R.C. Soles pushed a bill through his Senate Commerce Committee that would give the commissioners power, until June 2010, to control the use of land in Navassa marked out for the landfill and other industrial uses.
Brunswick commissioners already have approved a resolution opposing the project and three of five commissioners interviewed Thursday reaffirmed their opposition. If Mr. Solesâ€™ bill becomes law, David Sandifer, commission chairman, said the county would rezone the land, effectively blocking the landfill project for five years.
Navassa would regain control of zoning in 2010, but Mr. Soles said he believes the delay would be sufficient to discourage the project.
Scrap giant Sims Hugo Neu Co. is buying 750 acres that the legislature added to Navassa. The company plans to open a landfill for recyclable material from junked automobiles. The town has changed the zoning to allow it.
Mr. Soles, whose district includes all of Brunswick County, said his bill was a response to stalled efforts by Rep. Bonner Stiller, R-Brunswick, to remove the land from Navassa in a process called de-annexation.
â€œThereâ€™s something for everyone in this bill,â€� said Mr. Soles, D-Columbus. â€œOpponents of the Hugo Neu project told me the issue is zoning, not annexation. So, Navassa gets to keep the land and the benefits from it, but opponents should be satisfied that the county will handle the zoning.â€�
Hugo Neu project manager Doug Clark said Thursday that he was unaware of the proposal and couldnâ€™t comment on it, but said the company looked forward to talking with county leaders.
â€œI am sure they are good people,â€� he said. â€œAnd Iâ€™m certain once they hear the facts, theyâ€™ll support the project.â€�
The senator said he did not discuss the bill with Mr. Stiller, whose effort to return the land to county control is blocked in the House Finance Committee.
â€œI have been waiting for Mr. Stiller to send us a bill to consider,â€� Mr. Soles said. â€œSince he cannot seem to get it passed, I will send him something and see if he can pass it.â€�
Mr. Stiller said he would push the proposal when it reaches the House.
â€œI donâ€™t care whose ink it is,â€� Mr. Stiller said. â€œWe want victory, and victory is stopping Hugo Neu from coming to Brunswick County.â€�
No one interviewed this week would predict whether the bill would pass the House, a necessary step for it to become law.
Rep. William Wainwright, D-Carteret, who has held up Mr. Stillerâ€™s Navassa bill, said he hadnâ€™t seen Mr. Soleâ€™s proposal.
â€œIf it isnâ€™t de-annexation â€“ which was all I was concerned about â€“ then itâ€™s a local issue for that region to work out,â€� Mr. Wainwright said. â€œBut, I reserve the right to oppose the bill if thereâ€™s something in there thatâ€™s not right.â€�
On Thursday, Mr. Sandifer said that if the county gains control of the land, it would be rezoned for rural use, a move that would prohibit Hugo Neu from putting a landfill there.
â€œI love it. I hope it comes to pass,â€� Mr. Sandifer said.
Commissioners Tom Rabon and May Moore said they will continue to support the countyâ€™s resolution opposing the project.
â€œI would be delighted for the county to resume control,â€� Ms. Moore said. â€œWeâ€™ll just wait and see what happens.â€�
Commissioners Phil Norris and Bill Sue could not be reached for comment.
In Navassa, however, Mr. Solesâ€™ proposal drew criticism.
Mayor Eulis Willis said the bill is the latest attempt by state lawmakers to change the rules because Navassaâ€™s decision to bring Hugo Neu to the town is unpopular.
â€œThis is not a popularity contest. This is a decision that should be made by the town of Navassa,â€� Mr. Willis said. â€œI wouldnâ€™t be surprised if the next step was federal regulation or attack on a personal level. How far will they go?â€�
Proponents of the Hugo Neu project say it will create about 40 jobs, generate revenue for the town, provide the community with a new fire station and set aside land for further industrial development.
Opponents cheered Mr. Solesâ€™ proposal.
â€œI applaud the legislators for at least listening. Thatâ€™s the only thing we have asked from them, said Leonard Jenkins, spokesman for Brunswick Citizens for a Safe Environment.
(Mark Schreiner is chief of the Star-News bureau in Raleigh. Staff writer Angie Mack reported for this story from Wilmington.)
Quote[/b] ]Article published Jul 4, 2005 in the Star news
If Soles is serious, he might help
In a move that's as gratifying as it is belated, state Sen. R.C. Soles has acted to protect Brunswick County from a mountainous landfill.
The Senate's longest-serving Democrat introduced a bill that would let the Brunswick County Commissioners stop the project for five years. In that time, presumably, Hugo Neu would find another place to pile its "auto fluff."
State Rep. Bonner Stiller, a second-term Republican legislator, had taken the lead in trying to block the landfill. But his bill seemed to be going nowhere, because a Democratic Honorable from Craven County didn't like it and had the power to stop it.
The question is whether Sen. Soles gets his colleagues to pass his bill and whether the N.C. House will go along. The proposal's fate in the House might depend in part on New Hanover Democrat Thomas Wright, at whose behest the legislature first let Navassa annex land two miles away for the landfill.
However benevolent Rep. Wright's motivation might have been at the time, the County Commissioners and most Brunswick residents don't want to bury hundreds of acres in a growing, prospering area under a towering mound of automobile remnants.
A previous Star-News editorial suggested that if Sen. Soles didn't stand up for the people in his district, his face might be carved on Mount Fluffmore. At least for the moment, the sculptors can put down their chisels.