Baltimore County Attorney H. Emslie Parks wanted James F. Jett's stump dump operation in Granite shut down until Jett mulches and removes a pile of stumps and debris the size of a football field.
Instead, Baltimore County Circuit Court Judge James T. Smith Jr. ordered Jett shut down for today only and gave him until 44TC p.m. Sunday to mulch and remove the huge pile, a mound that county fire officials said -- and Smith agreed -- poses a fire hazard.
This new pile of stumps and other debris, which Jett allows housing contractors to dump on his land for a fee, are within 100 feet of a much larger mound of stumps that have been burning since February.
Asked what would happen if Jett reopens for business Monday without having removed all of the pile, Parks replied, "I think he better stay shut down or we'll be back talking to the judge."
Michael P. Tanczyn, attorney for Jett, was asked if his client could get the stumps mulched and removed by the deadline.
"We're going to give it a good country try," he said.
In his decision, Smith did not specifically forbid Jett from reopening if he failed to remove the newer pile of stumps and other debris by Sunday.
What the judge did was issue an injunction that limits the number of trucks that may dump stumps at Jett's 126-acre operation. No more than 40 per day, or 350 per month, are allowed to dump there, Smith said.
Smith, while saying he believed the stumps pose a "serious fire hazard," said his intention is not to put Jett out of business, but to remove the hazard.
"We're pleased" with the decision, said Tanczyn, speaking for Jett. "We're happy that it turned out the way it did."
Tanczyn, who doubts the newer pile poses a fire hazard, said his client has been doing the best he can to get rid of the stumps.
Last week, Jett rented another mulching machine -- one of three he has on site -- and has plans to purchase a much larger mulcher as soon as county officials approve a permit to run it.
"There's a cost factor," said Tanczyn. "Banks are being cautious. They don't want to put out the money unless they know he's going to be able to operate."
Tanczyn said his client is performing a needed service by disposing of logs, stumps and other debris cleared from new housing sites. "The county won't allow this stuff in their landfill. What we do is recycle it" into mulch.
Residents living near the stump dump on Dogwood Road were not happy with Smith's decision. They wanted him to order Jett's dump closed for good.
Del. Lawrence LaMotte, a Democrat who represents western Baltimore County and part of Carroll County, lives less than a mile from the stump dump. He attended the hearing in Towson the first two days, but wasn't there yesterday.
"I guess he [the judge] didn't do very much to him," LaMotte said, disappointed with the judge's decision.
Wind doesn't blow the smoke from the burning pile directly at LaMotte's home all the time, but when it does, he says it's irritating.
"It's like living in a chimney," LaMotte said. "It permeates your clothing."
Asked about residents' future action against Jett, LaMotte said, "What we'll have to do is wait for him to break his promise and then bring him back into court again. That's been his pattern."