Charles McCullough, owner of a North Point landscaping business, wants to start what he's calling a "waste wood recycling" operation on 11 acres of land across from the old Norris Farm landfill in eastern Baltimore County.
McCullough is promoting the plant, which will require $3.3 million worth of wood chipping and mulching machines, as a "clean" operation that will be good for the environment.
But critics and nearby neighbors already are opposing McCullough's plan. They're calling it, "The new stump dump."
Residents fear that noise from buzzing saws and dust from 40 tractor trailers a day will create a nuisance, in addition to a fire hazard, if McCullough allows the stumps, trees and other debris to pile up. They point to the trouble Granite residents have experienced on the west side of the county by a stump dump that has burned for months, sending smoke and odor into the air for miles around.
The two sides will square off tomorrow at 7 p.m. at a public hearing on McCullough's county permit application. Under a 1989 county law, anyone who wants to store or process waste products, including wood, must have a permit.
The hearing is scheduled at the North Point Library, 1716 Merritt Blvd.
Under McCullough's plan, he would accept about 40 commercial truck loads a day of old stumps, tree limbs, roots and other waste wood, then chip or mulch it into reusable products such as top soil, mulch and wood chips.
The wood stuff would come from new construction sites, from damaged trees after thunderstorms and from old wooden pallets used in the shipping industry. The facility would operate during normal working hours, five days a week.
"We're keeping it out of the landfill," McCullough said. "And we're recycling it. If you recycle all the material you can recycle, you don't need as much space in the landfill."
Janet Wood, president of the Wells-McComas Citizens Improvement Association, said she's all in favor of having a waste wood recycling center -- only not where this one is planned.
"It's the wrong location," Wood said. "I'm all in favor of recycling, but in the proper site."
Several residential streets are within two blocks of the site, she said.
"He says it's only going to be as loud as a chain saw," Wood said. "But who wants to listen to a chain saw eight hours a day, five days a week? And he's wrong. It's going to be much louder than a chain saw."
Her biggest fear is of fire.
Wood said she's afraid if McCullough is allowed to operate his waste wood operation, he'll follow the practice of James F. Jett at the Granite stump dump. Jett piled up stumps and logs for years. The huge mass caught fire last winter and the county Fire Department hasn't been able to put it out.
"If there's a fire, it would be like a blast furnace," said Wood, explaining that she thinks a pile of wood chips or mulch on fire could spark and ignite methane gas trapped below the old Norris Farm landfill nearby.
McCullough noted that under the permit, if granted, he could store materials up to 72 hours. But he said he would have the stuff brought in, processed and immediately trucked away.
To minimize noise and dust, McCullough said he would employ wood-chipping equipment that uses water to reduce dust and would provide a buffer of trees to reduce noise.
One critic of McCullough's plan, Guido Guarnaccia, also a member of the Wells-McComas Citizens Improvement Association, noted that McCullough had tried to build a warehouse on the same land, and failed.
Baltimore County Circuit Court records show that McCullough filed for bankruptcy in May, after being sued for more than $50,000 in connection with the failed warehouse deal.
McCullough, however, insisted that if he gets the proper permit, he'll be able to proceed quickly, because he has the financial backing of several investors, who he declined to name.