Blake Swafford said he found it “interesting that the opposition group has been saying for a year now that they’re not opposed to maintenance [or] manufacturing facilities” but is now asking a state agency to reverse its five-year-old determination that a planned industrial site was not subject to state stream buffer restrictions.
“[They said] they’re not opposed to the jobs, they just don’t want the commercial,” Swafford said. “Either they’ve changed their position and now they oppose that, or they were simply lying all along. I don’t know which.”
The group includes Anthony Avery, Bob and Mary Board, Jordan and Jan Louie and Sue Wilkins. Their efforts have included prompting a new federal environmental review of the airport in anticipation of proposed commercial passenger airline service.
Wilkins disputed Swafford’s assertions the group had changed any previously announced focus.
“We do not want industry to go in there if it’s going to compromise our environment,” she said. “Rules have to be followed. We expect everything to be done properly and to the letter of the law and we won’t expect anything less.”
The group, in a letter to Georgia Environmental Protection Division Director Judson Turner last week, said they wanted him to reverse former agency director Carol Couch’s decision that airport officials did not need a variance from requirements for a 50-foot stream buffer on a building site adjacent to the airport terminal building.
Their attorney, Peter Steenland, said in a letter to the state agency that Couch made her determination after airport officials provided a plan showing the land only contained exempted roadway drainage structures.
“Again, it is unclear what information about the project had been provided to Dr. Couch when she made this clearly erroneous determination.”
“[Couch’s] determination is all the more erroneous now because the applicant has made significant modifications to the project since the permit was issued,” Steenland wrote, referring to a concept plan included in information provided to the division.
Swafford said Steenland was referring to a generic concept plan the Federal Aviation Administration approved as part of the overall plan for the airport that airport officials later sent to the environmental protection division.
He said the airport authority already spent more than $1 million to bring the land into compliance with environmental laws.
“We received the buffer variances and we went and paid for our environmental mitigation based on [Couch’s determination],” he added
“When you have the head person at EPD saying this is OK, that’s the assurance that we went on. I don’t have any reason to think that EPD made a mistake. They’re the agency in the state of Georgia that takes care of these things. It’s their job.”