A proposed trash and recycling station in Keene was deemed consistent with Albemarle County’s Comprehensive Plan by the county’s Planning Commission.
Albemarle County will use county-owned land along Esmont Road near its intersection with Route 20 for the project, called the Southern Albemarle Convenience Center, where community members could dispose of trash and recyclables for a fee. Currently, some residences may be eligible for private trash pick-up now, but it could be costly, while others may not be eligible due to their driveway length.
County staff, commissioners and Board of Supervisors members have said this will help provide some equitable services to a rural area of the county.
“In the rural parts of the county curbside access is hardly a guarantee, I would say it’s more rare than it is common for curbside hauling collection to be available,” said Lance Stewart, the county’s director of facilities and environment services.
Albemarle has been discussing the construction of a trash and recycling convenience center or transfer station in the southern part of the county since the late 1980s, when the former Keene Landfill, about two miles south of this site, was nearing capacity. The Board of Supervisors also considered it in 2013.
The proposed property in Keene is a seven-acre parcel about 900 feet south of the intersection of Route 20 and Esmont Road. It’s zoned Rural Area, and county staff said this proposed use is considered a by-right use, meaning it does not need Board of Supervisors approval. Public uses are permitted by-right in all zoning districts.
But when a public structure or use is not explicitly included in an adopted Comprehensive Plan or land use plan, a “compliance with the comprehensive plan” review is required. CCPs are reviewed by the Planning Commission, which makes a finding on whether the project is in compliance.
County staff reviewing the proposal said the facility was consistent with the community facilities section of the Comprehensive Plan and a Long Range Solid Waste Solutions Advisory Committee Final Report from 2015.
“The location within the Rural Area is consistent with the Comp Plan, community facilities objective and guidance allowing for the location facilities in the Rural Area to address unique s
ervice needs, in this case to provide convenient service to rural area residents,” the staff report said.
At Tuesday’s Planning Commission meeting, commissioners approved the CCP unanimously, with Commissioner Jennie More absent.
During the public hearing, only one person spoke.
Rex Linville with Piedmont Environmental Council said if the facility is not done well, it could “have a negative impact on the resources that were acknowledged as special and important in Southern Albemarle Rural Historic District,” which is on the National Register of Historic Places.
“We believe that the county staff and this commission should give greater attention to the negative impact this facility could have on these important conservation resources and require the applicant to develop a mitigation plan to address those impacts,” he said.
“It is our hope that the applicant would be required to provide a more robust screening and landscape management plan geared toward protection of the scenic and historic resources that make this part of Albemarle County such a special place that is worthy of national recognition and distinction.”
Stewart said he would be reaching out to Linville about PEC’s suggestions.
Commissioner Karen Firehock said people are more likely to utilize this facility, rather than dumping in the woods.
“I think that the damage to the look and feel of our historic district is much greater by all the dumping that we are experiencing in southern Albemarle versus what it will look like once there is a clean and safe facility to take our trash to,” she said.
People assume that there are lots of choices for trash pickup, she said.
“I can tell you in the Samuel Miller district, there simply are not,” Firehock said. “We don’t have the ability to have affordable trash pickup and an almost 60 mile round trip to take recycling is, frankly, I think unacceptable to those of us who care about the environment.”
Commissioner Tim Keller said he thought a crossroads community like Keene, which has a post office and is the proper location for a facility like a convenience center.
“I think that this is actually consistent with the Comp Plan and the Rural Historic District component of that by being located where it is, as opposed to out in the middle of nowhere,” he said.
In March, the Board of Supervisors appropriated $1.1 million to fund the design and construction of the facility, including all containers and compactors necessary to collect the waste.
Rivanna Solid Waste Authority will manage the construction and eventually the operation of the facility, Stewart said.
The center will be fully staffed during all operating hours, which would be during daytime and set seasonally, he said. It would be open daily except on one day a week when emptying containers, site cleaning and maintenance will occur. Stickers for bags will be sold by local merchants or can be purchased by mail for $2 each for a 32 gallon bag.
This center would take household waste, compostable food waste and recyclables, and not commercial materials, said Phillip McKalips, director of solid waste at RSWA.
McKalips said the plan does not call for any lighting of the site and the gate will be secured at night.
In a letter from a neighboring family to the Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission and provided to The Daily Progress, Hal and Barbara West said officials and staff are “ignoring the safety factor” of the “extremely high probability of accidents.”
“We realize you will dismiss us as the unhappy abutting property owners and gallop on with your plans because we are the fewest to protest, because you own the land and because we believe people in power do not want it at an appropriate place for their own reasons,” they said. “You can choose to look the other way but you can never say you were not warned. As you march forward through the final stages of the process, we remain on record as having advised you against this ill-conceived location.”
The Planning Commission’s finding is forwarded to the Board of Supervisors for information only.