One Down, One to Go 

Land Use Control Board says no to special use permit for RACE.

Last Thursday may have been the most exciting Shelby County Land Use Control Board (LUCB) meeting in a while. Employees of Radiological Assistance, Consulting, and Engineering (RACE) packed the middle section of the City Council's chambers. On the far right side of the room, grassroots activists opposing RACE's plan to operate a nuclear waste incinerator on Presidents Island held brightly colored placards with slogans such as "Get Your Ash Out of Memphis."

They were there to see how the land use board would vote on RACE's application for two special-use permits - one for the incinerator and another for storage of radioactive waste at a second site on Trigg Avenue. In what chairman William Mitchell declared "a precedent [setting] case," members voted 6-0 against approving both permits.

"We're not chemists. We don't understand nuclear waste," said Mitchell. "We're here to talk about land uses."

After the meeting, RACE officials expressed their disappointment with the vote, citing the fact that LUCB members were invited to tour the facilities, but all refused.

"They refused to come down for the tour, and now they're up there pretending to be confused and to not have enough information," said Kate Harbin, chairman of the board at RACE.

RACE president Bob Applebaum also claimed some of the information passed along during the opposition's 10-minute comment period was false. Attorney Richard Fields, representing opposition group Memphis Truth, told the board RACE was planning on incinerating human body parts.

"None of us have ever heard that before," said Applebaum. "That was a total lie. One of many."

Reached via phone after the meeting, Fields said the information came from a former RACE employee.

During Fields' comment period, he mentioned that there could be a potential danger with approving RACE's Trigg Avenue storage permit because it's located 700 feet from a daycare center and 647 feet from a residential area.

The final decision will rest with the City Council, but no date has been set.

"Two hundred jobs are important, but there's a million people living here, and we're talking about contaminating our environment forever," said Memphis Truth founder Kelly Fitzpatrick. "I think the City Council will weigh that." n

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