Bobby Branch, the man proposing a several hundred acre construction and debris landfill off North Plank Road along the Deep River, actively opposed a similar project in 2003.
The June 6, 2003 edition of the Sanford Herald shows a picture of Branch at a protest of an ultimately failed effort by company MRR Southern to put a landfill in the same area. “Sanford … Brick Capital soon to be Garbage Capital of the World,” reads a sign Branch holds in the photograph.
“The county commissioners have done been snowed,” Branch is quoted as saying in the article, specifically addressing concerns about potential contamination of the Deep River. “They’re trying to sell this million and a half dollars that’s supposed to be coming in. That’s where Lee County gets our water.”
Branch hasn’t been available this week to comment on the difference between his stance in 2003 and his current proposal, but one apparent distinction is that his plans are for a construction and debris landfill, which according to the EPA “do not receive hazardous waste or industrial solid waste, unless those landfills meet certain standards and are permitted to receive such wastes” – apparently not the case with MRR’s 2003 proposal, which was ultimately withdrawn by the company after several months of protests. It’s unclear whether Branch intends to seek those exemptions.
The county Board of Adjustment voted last week to postpone a special use permit hearing for the landfill property after attorney Chip Post said a group of neighbors in the area wanted to learn more about the project. The hearing was rescheduled for 6 p.m. April 8 in the Old Courthouse at the Lee County court complex.
Branch’s plans, submitted in December of 2018, also show a recycling plant and an area for recyclable yard waste.
Even if the county Board of Adjustment finds that Branch proved everything he needed to in order to be granted the special use permit, he will still have to go before the county Board of Commissioners for a franchise, which is a legislative process in which the commissioners have far more discretion than the adjustment board, which is quasi-judicial and deals primarily with findings of fact.
Branch is apparently represented by the same law firm that represented developer Ray Covington in his successful effort to place a rock quarry across N.C. Highway 87 from the Carolina Trace community.