About 70 Brooklyn Park residents rallied in support of a neighborhood sand and gravel company Thursday, promising to aid in its battle with the county over whether its dumping grounds should be licensed.
Since last June the county has claimed that new legislation, which gives it the right to collect fees and regulate rubble landfills, applies to Belle Grove Corp.'s 17-acre site at the intersection of Belle Grove and Old Annapolis roads.
The firm has appealed the decision. It claims that it accepts only
clean fill -- predominantly dirt and pavement excavated from building sites -- and thus should be exempt from the regulation.
"Because of a fluke in the way the legislation was written, the county feels that we fit under the definition of a rubble landfill. We have neverfelt that the clean fill we were bringing into the quarry was rubble. That's what it all comes down to," Belle Grove Vice President Bruce Jones said.
The company's case will be reviewed at a 2 p.m. appeals hearing Wednesday in the County Council's Annapolis chambers. Brooklyn Park residents, who gathered at the Lloyd Keaser Community Center Thursday night, agreed to charter a bus to support Belle Grove.
The residents decided to support the company after Jones explained that there was a chance that it might have to accept construction debris and other types of rubble if it had to pay for a full rubble permit.
In an interview before the meeting, Jones said Belle Grove doesn't accept debris traditionally classified as rubble -- such items as tree stumps and demolition debris -- because after the gravel pit is filled, the company would like to subdivide the residentially zoned property. Jones said he's concerned the land would be devalued by the stigma of being a former rubble fill.
Belle Grove also faces the possibility of completely losing its right to dump because it would have to fight an unpopular zoning battle in order to receive a license.
Some residents, like Sen. Philip C. Jimeno, D-Brooklyn Park, who lives one-half mile from the pit,said they know and trust the Jones family, which has run the gravel pit and concrete recycling operation since the 1950s.
"Any time we've called on them (the Jones), they've responded," Jimeno said. "I'm against them (the county) changing its designation. You never know if something could happen that would force them to sell, and then you don't know who would be running it."
Others questioned the county's motives.
"Who trusts them (the county)? I don't," said Philip Marner, president of the Pumphrey Civic Association before the meeting. Pointing to the members of the community seated behind him, he said: "They're afraid that they're going to put rubbish in their backyard."
No one from the county Department of Inspections and Permits, which enforces the rubble regulation, or the Office of Law, which has filed suit in Circuit Court against Belle Grove for not applying for a permit, was invited to the meeting.
"I never heard about a meeting," Assistant County Attorney Cheryl Boudreau said.
She said the Office of Law sued Belle Grove because the company disregarded the county's order to apply for a permit during the appeals process.
Boudreau said the office has a "mandate" from the new legislation to bring each landfill in the county into compliance.
The council passed the "emergency" interim rubble landfill bill -- sponsored by Councilwoman Virginia Clagett, D-West River -- last April because the state didn't have enough inspectors to ensure that county rubble landfills only accept rubble.
The Al/Ray rubble landfill in Lothian was ordered to shut down last November after county inspectors -- present because of the new law -- witnessed medical wastes being dumped.
Boudreau conceded that inspectors have reported that the vast majority of Belle Grove's fill is plain dirt, making the site "a borderline case."
Any rock or cement piece largerthan 8 inches across is considered rubble. Somewhere between 5 percent and 15 percent of the debris Belle Grove accepts is that large, Jones said.
Jones and Boudreau both said they were close to compromising on a settlement, under which Belle Grove pays for and is subjectto some inspection but doesn't have to pay for a permit. Such a license would cost more than $100,000.