Ballantyne-area residents are rallying to keep trash from being dumped at county-owned Foxhole landfill near their homes.
Last week, the Elon Park Elementary auditorium was filled with 150-plus residents who peppered county officials and commissioners with questions about a new energy initiative in northwest Charlotte that could have a major impact on their south Charlotte homes, schools, park and ball fields.
Forsite Development hopes to build a 667-acre, $160 million, 20-megawatt facility called ReVenture Park in northwest Charlotte that would process a large portion of Mecklenburg County's waste and turn it into electricity.
In a recent series of 8-1 votes, the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners voted to spend $15 million to expand the 40-acre Foxhole landfill off U.S. 521 by 34 acres, and allowed Forsite to list Foxhole as a disposal option for ash and unburnable wastes on the company's state application.
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Commissioner Bill James, who represents Ballantyne and much of south Charlotte, was the lone dissenter in both votes.
Foxhole landfill, near Mecklenburg County's border with Lancaster and Union counties holds only construction waste and demolition debris, which don't smell.
Commission Chairwoman Jennifer Roberts and James attended the public meeting. County officials gave PowerPoint presentations about the proposals, and Forsite CEO Tom McKittrick discussed plans for ReVenture.
Residents sat in folding metal chairs, and stood when they had questions. Emotional pleas garnered applause, and several times, the sound of slamming doors echoed, as angry residents left the room.
County officials said the board still has to approve a contract with Forsite, so there is no guarantee the site would become the disposal area.
Officials also said the landfill is near capacity and needed to be expanded.
But these caveats did little to placate area residents upset by the thought of garbage odors, trash-trucks and decreased home values.
Bridgehampton resident Dorie de Armas attended the meeting with two painted signs that read "Bigger is NOT Better" and "No Landfill Expansion."
"I want to know, as a citizen, mother and wife, what I need to do to keep the landfill from being expanded," said de Armas.
There is no simple answer.
Mecklenburg County sends its trash to a landfill in Cabarrus County. That contract expires June 2012.
The county is negotiating to determine whether to renew a contract or find a new site.
ReVenture Park would not be operable until 2013. So the newly-expanded Foxhole could become the dumping site for the county's trash - about 370,000 tons a year.
Foxhole is close to Bridgehampton and Southampton Commons neighborhoods and adjacent to several ball fields at Elon Park.
An elementary school is just beyond the ball fields.
Jamie O'Rourke, president of the homeowners' association for Southampton Commons, is a Realtor in the area with an office in Ballantyne.
"The Ballantyne area was never sold, developed, any of that, with the intention that there would be a waste-disposal landfill in the middle of it," he said.
James says the county should have been more transparent with area residents by honoring a decade-old agreement to discuss changes to the landfill with the citizen-led Foxhole Advisory Committee.
When the board voted to expand Foxhole by 34 acres and let ReVenture designate Foxhole as a potential disposal site, county staff had not discussed the issue with the committee.
"We were basically blindsided about this whole thing," said Peggy Beck, who organized the public meeting.
Beck said she and the other area residents who fought the landfill from the start are regrouping because they want to show stronger force in the coming weeks when county officials have promised additional public meetings.
"The next go-round they're going to have to have Panthers Stadium to get everybody in it," said James. "The temperature in Ballantyne is up to a boil, and it's about to go into the nuclear range."