I mentioned this before, but on the cusp of tonight’s meeting I’d like to remind folks of Aarne Vesilind excellent overview in the Chapel Hill News (Feb. 21, 2007) of some of the history of the Eubanks landfill.

Before the early 1970s, Chapel Hill was using a small landfill owned by the university for the disposal of its solid waste. This landfill was rapidly running out of space and the university wanted to close it, so a search commenced for a new landfill site. The Town Council decided to buy a piece of land to the north of town for the new landfill.

Abutting this land was a vibrant black community, the Rogers Road neighborhood. They did not want the landfill so close to their homes and went to Mayor Howard Lee for help. The mayor talked them into accepting the decision and promised them that this would be the one and only landfill that would be located near their neighborhood, and if they could endure this affront for 10 years the finished landfill would be made into a neighborhood park.

Most importantly, they were told that the next solid waste landfill for Chapel Hill would be somewhere else and that their area would not become a permanent dumping site. The citizens of the Rogers Road neighborhood grudgingly accepted this deal and promise and then watched as the Orange County Regional Landfill was built near their community.

Although Lee acknowledged making this promise, this was never found on any written document. In addition, the people who lived in the Rogers Road neighborhood were told that the LSC was not bound by promises made by former elected officials.

The fact that the Greene tract was too small to afford a long-term solution continued to be a source of encouragement to the Rogers Road neighborhood, but late in the process and well after the public hearings, Eddie Mann introduced a new site, named OC-17. This site abutted the Greene tract and the Rogers Road neighborhood and included a large tract of land in Duke Forest. The LSC quickly approved OC-3 and OC-17 as the new landfill site and the decision went to the LOG for its approval.

The vote in the LOG was 6-3 in favor of the selected site. Two of the negative votes were by the representatives from Carrboro. Even though Carrboro ought to have had a clear, selfish motive for choosing this site, the two Carrboro representatives, Mayor Mike Nelson and Alderman Jacquelyn Gist, argued that the promise made by Howard Lee to the Rogers Road neighborhood should be kept.

He closes with this observation:

The question in front of the people in Orange County now is whether to continue along their path of least resistance and least cost and place yet another solid waste processing facility in the Rogers Road neighborhood, or to thank these people for all the years that they have had to endure the presence of the landfill in their community, and to tell them once and for all that they have indeed done their part.

Complete column here.

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