About 50 residents of the Lake Drive community near South Cobb Drive met with Smyrna City Councilman Corkey Welch on Wednesday night to ask questions and tour the center.
Some of those who attended say their minds haven’t changed, and Welch says he thinks opponents went into the meeting with a negative outcome in mind.
“It doesn’t need to be on our street,” said David Chanaberry, who lives two houses down from the center at 3475A Lake Drive, Smyrna.
Angela Ellis, who lives behind the property, points to the residential nature of the neighborhood and the park across the street. She says non-violent inmates will work at the center.
“We are not OK with that across the street from a playground,” Ellis said.
The recycling center operating now, about a mile away from the future site, has seen between 1,700 and 1,900 users each month this year.
That’s just too much traffic for a residential community, Ellis and Chanaberry say.
They plan to speak out along with their neighbors at the council’s next meeting at 7:30 p.m. Monday at 2800 King St., Smyrna.
Residents: We were kept in the dark
What used to be Lance Oil Co., will become the new location of Smyrna’s recycling center. City Council members unanimously approved purchasing the property July 15 for $435,000 with special purpose local option sales tax funds.
Ellis thinks the city intentionally kept the community out of the loop and the city is “hell bent” on following through.
“The bottom line is pretty clear,” she said. “They’re going to do whatever they want to do.”
The address of the property was not listed on the meeting’s agenda and the city’s website listed the property as being in “Ward X.” That ward does not exist because the city’s wards are numbered one through four.
Welch, who represents the area, says there’s a simple explanation for that. The council decided to place it on the agenda at an evening work session. The following day, the city clerk, who usually updates online items, was not at work. The deputy clerk did not know what ward the property was listed in and did not list a ward.
The city’s software, Welch said, defaulted to an “X.”
Little recourse available for opponents
Residents of the Lake Drive community have few options.
The council has already voted to purchase the property and while the sale is waiting on an environmental assessment to be finalized, Welch says going back would take a council member presenting the item to the full board again for another vote to reverse the original decision.
And Welch doesn’t plan on doing that.
“I really don’t feel like I changed anybody’s mind about the relocation of this facility,” Welch said.
Chanaberry says he wants to get his neighbors on board to vote Welch out of office.
“We voted him in office and everyone was sitting there (at Wednesday’s meeting) saying, ‘When are elections coming up? Because we’re going to try to vote you out of office,’” Chanaberry said.
But that’s unlikely to happen.
Though Welch is up for re-election in 2015, Lake Drive will no longer be in his constituency. In Ward 4 now, most of the Lake Drive area will become Ward 3 when re-districting takes effect in the beginning of 2015. Re-districting follows the 2010 census and is being done in local governments across the state to balance populations with their representatives.
That has some thinking Welch doesn’t have their interest in mind because they won’t be able to vote him out.
When asked if redistricting was part of his decision, Welch said he wasn’t aware the area is slated to change wards.
“The decision that I made to put the center in this location had absolutely nothing to do with redistricting,” Welch said.
Chanaberry says some residents and Realtors at the meeting offered to help the city find what they would consider to be a more suitable location, but those offers fell on deaf ears.
“Pretty much Smyrna feels like they can do whatever they want,” he said.
Supporters say location is ideal
The current location lends itself to traffic problems, Welch said, and the new site will have room for a circular drive allowing visitors to enter and exit easily.
About 650 feet from South Cobb Drive, he says it’s in a central location.
Ann Kirk, director of Keep Smyrna Beautiful which oversees the center, says there were few locations that were both affordable and met their needs.
She says the center will be respectful and “very good neighbors.” The property will be landscaped, she said, and feature a decorative fence.
“Really, until you get into the driveway of the site you shouldn’t be able to see the containers,” Kirk said, adding the containers will be covered and shielded from rain.
Kirk has overseen the recycling center since 1991 and says she hasn’t gotten any complaints despite its location near two neighborhoods.
“We don’t have an odor problem,” Kirk said. “We don’t have a rodent problem because we don’t take trash or yard waste.”
The site also contains an office building that will be used to house three Keep Smyrna Beautiful employees.
“I would just like to re-emphasize my support for this location and this project in general,” Welch said. “I believe that we’re going to be good neighbors … in time we’re going to show the neighbors that we are good neighbors.”