The mound of tires in West Baltimore caught fire in 1987. Now what's blazing is the rhetoric of Mary Pat Clarke, president of the City Council, and Norman J. Emanuel, owner of Emanuel Tire Co.
Emanuel owns the mound of tire shreds that Clarke has called "Mount Goodyear." They're piled on a five-acre lot near homes on Winchester Street, Riggs Avenue and Bentalou Street, just south of Carver Vocational-Technical High School.
Ever since someone set the tires on fire three years ago, neighbors have petitioned City Hall to force Emanuel to remove the mound. He has fought tooth-and-nail, and the tires are still there.
Now Clarke is leading the escalating battle against Emanuel, saying she plans to hire a lawyer out of her own pocket to make sure he removes the tires.
"Here we have a man who refuses to meet anybody halfway," Clarke said of Emanuel. "He's a very difficult person. There's just no middle ground with the man."
Emanuel accuses Clarke of single-handedly trying to run him out of town. He says she'll never succeed.
"I may be a country boy, but I'm not as backwoods as she thinks I am," Emanuel said. "She picked the wrong guy to fight with."
The battle rages on three fronts:
* The city zoning board issued a ruling this week clearing the way for Emanuel to buy an isolated 2.7-acre parcel next to his plant on Moreland Avenue, a parcel where Emanuel can store more tires.
The zoning board held a hearing on the case last week because Clarke and the three City Council members from the 4th District -- Lawrence A. Bell, Sheila Dixon and Agnes Welch -- had appealed the issuance of a permit from the zoning office that granted Emanuel permission to store tires on the parcel.
Clarke says she will appeal the zoning board's ruling. "I am determined," she declared.
At the heart of the appeal, she said, is the interpretation of a law dealing with tire storage. The City Council passed the law last year in direct response to complaints about Emanuel's tires.
Emanuel and his lawyer, George L. Russell Jr., interpret the law ++ as saying tires must be 200 feet from residential districts.
Clarke interprets the law as saying the parcel of land where tires are stored -- not merely the tires themselves -- must be 200 feet from residential districts.
Clarke's interpretation means that Emanuel could not store tires on his new parcel. And Clarke says her interpretation is correct, even though the zoning board sided with Emanuel.
"Pardon me," Clarke said, "but I wrote the law."
* In August, the zoning board ruled on another aspect of the case. It ruled that Emanuel could not continue storing tires on the five-acre lot near the homes on Winchester Street, Riggs Avenue and Bentalou Street.
As required in the law, Emanuel had sought permission from the zoning board to continue storing the tires. He appealed the decision to Circuit Court, but the appeal has not yet been heard.
* Finally, the state Department of the Environment ordered Emanuel in August to comply with a state law limiting the amount of tires one business can store. Emanuel must remove a large portion of his tires, the state decreed. Emanuel appealed that order as well.
Emanuel's business is recycling tires, either by selling used tires for retreading or by shredding old tires and selling the shredded rubber for a variety of uses: in pavement, railroad beds, roofing, running tracks, horse arenas, new tires, floor mats and oyster beds, as well as for fuel in boilers at paper mills.
The mound of shredded tires in West Baltimore are from steel-belted tires. Because the shreds contains bits of steel, Emanuel has had trouble finding a market for them.
But, he says, no matter what happens in the three pending legal cases, he plans on removing the mound of shredded tires within the next year. Clarke scoffs at that.
"The truth is he was never willing to remove those tires, and he still isn't," she said. "The real tragedy is that this man is destroying this good neighborhood."