BALL GROUND – A developer that Ball Ground city officials say has disappeared after clearing a site on Northridge Road could face thousands of dollars in fines from the city and from state environmental protection officials, pending the results of erosion and hazardous materials investigations.
Ball Ground City Manager Eric Wilmarth on Tuesday said the Georgia Environmental Protection Division’s investigations stem from developers’ plans for a subdivision at 506 Northridge Road, a project led by applicant Taylor Weaver.
“They submitted their permit request to EPD for land disturbance. They were approved to go ahead and start work. They did a lot of grading, got different things done, got some storm drain installed, got sewer gravity installed and then disappeared,” Wilmarth said.
Early in their proposal, developers, city officials and the Cherokee County Historical Society also discussed the possibility of donating an abandoned home on the property to the historical society, but when negotiations fell through, developers asked if demolition would be acceptable.
“We said, ‘Well, you can certainly tear it down. We don’t have anything that prohibits it, but you have to have your hazardous material testing done for lead paint, for asbestos, for those different materials, and once you’re clear on that, then we’ll issue a demolition permit.’ We never heard anything,” Wilmarth said.
He said when the EPD followed up for updates on the development in mid-January, the city told the agency that additional necessary actions, including laying straw to prevent erosion, had not yet been taken. Wilmarth said after more unsuccessful attempts to reach developers, city and EPD officials walked the site, finding multiple violations.
Many of the possible violations center on erosion and sediment control at the currently barren site, but inspectors also found that the home had been demolished without permission, leading to concerns about proper disposal of lead and asbestos. Wilmarth said concerns are compounded by the amount of rain that has fallen on the county in the past week.
“We have sent notice to them – because I can’t get these folks on the phone – that we need copies of the hazardous material testing reports. If they can’t produce those, then they will be cited under local code for violation of the code for demolition,” he said. “Our ordinance – and by state code cities aren’t allowed to impose a fine higher than $1,000 – so they could be facing that, but ultimately that’s up to the judge. The state penalties for the condition of their site right now, they could be very substantial.”
He said if developers are not able to produce hazardous materials testing reports by next week or if those reports come back positive for hazardous materials, the city will pursue the maximum fine.
EPD officials confirmed on Wednesday that the site at 506 Northridge Road is the subject of two open investigations.
“One involves storm water issues, and the other is about lead-based paint chips and asbestos,” said Kevin Chambers, a spokesman for the agency.
Chambers said specific details, including possible penalties, cannot be shared until the investigations are completed. Wilmarth speculated on Tuesday, based on his experience with another developer’s violations a few years ago, penalties Weaver’s project could exceed $35,000.
Chambers said parties under investigation for storm water issues are given about a week to correct those issues and then the site is re-evaluated.
If lead paint chips are present, he said the property will need to be contained immediately, “so that no paint chips, dust or debris leave the work area without being properly collected, packaged, and handled.” The property would then need to be properly cleaned and paint chips disposed of. Time-stamped post-cleanup photos would be required for submission to the EPD. If asbestos is found at the site, the process would be the same.
Weaver could not be reached for comment for this story.