Hoping to avoid court action regardless of the outcome, Fairfax County officials are planning to hold off on deciding whether to approve a controversial landfill application in Lorton, officials said.
Instead, the county will convene a small group to mediate differences between the EnviroSolutions waste company and area residents who oppose an application to extend the life of the industrial landfill until 2040, or 22 years longer than its scheduled closure date, Sharon Bulova, chairman of the county board of supervisors, told a crowd of about 200 people gathered inside a Lorton high school.
“This application is troublesome,” said Bulova (D-At Large).
After initially supporting a proposal by EnviroSolutions to eventually install wind turbines and other green technology on the landfill in exchange for an extension, “we learned that the period of time is longer than anyone expected, including me,” Bulova said.
“I don’t know which way I’ll vote,” she said. “I’m troubled.”
Those doubts were received warmly by a crowd of homeowners and community leaders who had gathered at the South County high school to rip into Bulova for supporting a proposal they say will undermine the transformation occurring in Lorton.
The area was the home of the Lorton prison for decades before it closed in 2001, plus other landfills and industrial properties. Recently, new subdivisions have been built there, with strong community groups taking hold where there was previously little resistance to large industrial projects.
Those groups dominated a planning commission meeting on the project last month, with more than 50 people lining up to voice their opposition until the meeting ended at 3 a.m., officials and neighbors said.
The intensity of opposition matched an aggressive lobbying campaign by the politically connected waste company to win approval.
Among other promises, EnviroSolutions has offered to pay several million dollars to the county should the application be approved, plus funnel energy from the site to a troubled arts center where the former prison once stood.
The intensity from both sides makes court action very likely if a compromise isn’t reached, said Gerald Hyland (D-Mount Vernon,) who represents the area and opposed extending the life of the landfill.
“Someone is going to win and someone is going to lose,” said Hyland. “And whoever loses is going to sue and whoever wins is going to say: ‘Oh, God. We’re going to get sued.”
“If we want to control the result, we need to sit down to see if anything can be done to help the community, Hyland said, in a pitch for compromise.
A planning commission vote on the project is scheduled for Thursday. A top aide for Bulova said there will be a motion to defer that vote.
Bulova said she will start working to convene “a relatively small group’’ comprised of EnviroSolutions representatives, community leaders and county officials to go over the proposal and “talk about whether or not there can be changes.”