New Rubble Restrictions Are Among Toughest In State

Impact On Ongoing Landfill Projects Unclear

March 31, 1991|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff writer

New zoning regulations restricting the size, location and operation of rubble dumps in Harford are now considered to be among the toughest in Maryland, state officials said.

But whether the new regulations will affect four projects already being reviewed by the state Department of Environment, which issues permits for rubble fills, has notyet been determined.

The regulations, which took effect Friday when County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann signed them into law, require rubble fill operatorsto sign a contract with the county. If the rubble fill owner violates the contract, the county would have legal recourse.

Other provisions included in the new regulations call for rubble fills to have:

* A minimum lot size of 100 acres.

* A 1,000-foot buffer betweenthe site and neighboring residential or institutional buildings.

* A 500-foot distance between the site and wetlands or a flood plain.

* A machine to wash down the wheels of trucks leaving the fill site.

John Goheen, a spokesman for the Department of the Environment, said department administrators are reviewing the legislation to seehow it will affect four projects that are seeking state approval.

"Before the state can issue a permit, a proposed rubble fill must bepart of the county's 10-year solid waste management plan and must meet all local zoning and land use regulations," said Goheen.

He said the four rubble fill operations that do not yet have permits include those proposed for Gravel Hill Road in Havre de Grace; Fort Hoyle Road in Joppa; Mountain Road in Fallston; and the expansion of Spencer's Sand and Gravel Inc. in Abingdon.

The key issue DOE administrators will look at is a provision in the bill that requires rubble fills to be located on 100-acre parcels, with a 1,000-foot buffer betweenthe fill and neighboring properties, Goheen said.

Goheen described Harford's regulations for rubble fills as tougher than the state's standards. State regulations mainly govern the type of debris, rubbleor other material a rubble or sanitary landfill can accept.

"AnneArundel County probably has the most stringent local requirements for rubble fills," said Goheen. "But the state does not regulate the size of the landfill."

James D. Vannoy, a council aide who researched and drafted Harford's new zoning regulation, said Harford's new code was modeled after Anne Arundel County regulations.

He said Anne Arundel sets a minimum size of 100 acres for the rubble fill site, limits the hours of operation, and requires that the area in which the rubble is deposited be 1,000 feet from any residential, institutionalor industrial buildings.

By comparison, Vannoy said, Howard and Baltimore counties allow rubble fills only by special exception; in Harford they are a permitted use of land. Both Baltimore and Howard counties require a shorter buffer than Harford's new law -- 100 feet.

The minimum lot size requirement, not the buffer, was a sticking point among Harford developers, who said they are concerned no site could be found to meet Harford's new 100-acre minimum.

George Shehan, president of the Maryland Homebuilders Association, said the size standard could virtually "eliminate almost every possible rubble fill in this county."

Shehan said the county's topography combined with the required 1,000-foot buffer would make it nearly impossible for a proposed site to meet the new zoning standards.

The council amended the bill at Shehan's suggestion to limit the distance between activity in a rubble fill and a flood plain to 500 feet, instead of requiring a 500-foot buffer between the flood plain and the rubble fill property line.

"I appreciated the opportunity to get at least one amendment, but I think it remains very, very, very difficult to find a site in Harford County capable of meeting all the restrictions," said Shehan.

Council member Theresa M. Pierno, D-District C, said that as in all zoning cases, would-be rubble fill operators could apply for a zoning variance.

"We realize it's not a perfect document, but there is always the opportunity to apply for a zoning variance," Pierno said. "There may be a need to amend it, but we felt we needed to go with this at this time."

Although the county is involved in litigation to halt the Gravel Hill dump, Pierno said the new regulations were not aimed at that specific project.

"I don't believe it's aimed at Gravel Hill; it could impact a lot of other projects, too," said Pierno. "If we're not careful, Harford County will be inundated with rubble fills. It's quite obvious we need legislation to protect us."

But Vannoy said zoning regulations can sometimes be applied retroactively.

"In general terms, you can retroactively apply zoning regulations to property," said Vannoy. "Whether this situation would be one of those is hard to say. Also, remember the property owner can apply for a variance."

The council is attempting to stop the Gravel Hill project by appealing a circuit court ruling that cleared the way for the state to consider issuing a permit.

In November 1989 the council voted to include the fill proposed by Maryland Reclamation Associates in its management plan.

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