At least 70 people opposing a proposed expansion of an Abingdon rubble fill won a victory Tuesday when they persuaded the County Council to reopen a public hearing on the issue.
The council had held and concluded a public hearing on the proposal by Spencer's Sand & GravelInc., a 51-acre rubble fill on Abingdon Road near Interstate 95, on Dec. 17.
Although the council made a rare exception in allowing a second public hearing, it deferred voting on the 18-acre expansion request. The final vote could come as early as Tuesday.
The council voted, 7-0, to reopen the public hearing over the objections of Elwood V. Stark, a lawyer representing Spencer's. Citizens wearing "No more dumps"badges crowded the council chambers Tuesday.
"It was our understanding that the public hearing was concluded. We paid for 500 notices to be sent in accordance with your instructions prior to the Dec. 17 meeting," Stark said.
An Abingdon-based citizens group, Citizens for Environmentally Safe Neighborhoods in Abingdon, opposes the proposal to expand the rubble fill operation.
Dianna Lea Hughes, a spokeswoman for the group, said the group wanted a second public hearing because holiday activities kept many people from attending the Dec. 17hearing.
"How you can even begin to consider this expansion is beyond my wildest imagination," said Hughes, who lived near the Spencer's site for eight years before moving to Constant Branch, where she now lives. "We already have six dumps. Enough is enough."
Hughes, who was among seven people to speak Tuesday against the proposed expansion, cited violation notices the state Department of the Environmentissued to Spencer's last year.
However, Thomas M. Thomas, the county health officer, testified that he felt the violations, such as litter blowing around the site and soil erosion, are considered normal for such operations.
Dan Borkowicz, a resident of the PhiladelphiaStation neighborhood, told the council, "Please just say no. I thinkAbingdon has enough dumps." He said most Philadelphia Station residents did not know they were moving into homes near dump sites.
In addition to the Spencer's site, there are three illegal dump sites, the Bush Valley Landfill Superfund site, and the old Abingdon landfill.All are located within a few miles of one another in Abingdon.
After Council President Jeffrey D. Wilson asked for a show of hands from those who opposed the project -- about 70 -- and from those who favored the project -- about 12 -- Stark, the lawyer, expressed his frustration.
"You're counting people, but if I had known the hearing would be reopened, I could have had more people here to support it."
Stark also chastised Wilson for allowing Hughes and several other people who spoke at the first hearing to speak again Tuesday.
"I thought if you spoke once, you had your shot," he said. "The logic theyhave used is simplistic and threatening. Several people said they didn't know it was there: That seems to speak well of the landfill and the fact that it's not operating as a nuisance."
At the Dec. 17 public hearing, Jefferson Blomquist, deputy county attorney, and William G. Carroll, director of planning and zoning, testified that they believe Spencer's Sand & Gravel is exempt from a law passed by the council in March that set stringent size and other zoning restrictions onsuch dumps.
Spencer's applied to be included in the county's Solid Waste Management Plan, a prerequisite for receiving a state operating permit, more than nine months ago.
County planners have recommended approval of the expansion, provided the company complies with 12requirements. They include allowing a county employee on site for checking rubble being brought in, creating a 200-foot buffer and a gateat the entrance.