Baltimore County Executive Roger B. Hayden revealed his plan yesterday for handling the stump dump in Granite that has burned since February.
He wants to buy it.
Mr. Hayden said the 35-acre tract owned by James F. Jett in the 8700 block of Dogwood Road should cost about $250,000 and might make a good park or a county nursery for trees and shrubs once the fire is out.
Mr. Hayden said he hopes by buying the property the county will put a period at the end of a 10-year sentence of court battles, zoning disputes and environmental complaints that have been prompted by Mr. Jett's operation.
Fire officials have spent $140,000 on fighting the fire, and the county law office has spent at least $10,000 on legal fees and clerical costs in trying to close the dump, said County Attorney H. Emslie Parks.
County officials said yesterday that they fear that once the fire is out Mr. Jett would continue operating -- and the county's costs would continue to climb.
"We've always got environmental people out there. The law office, the fire department is on this day in and day out," Mr. Parks said.
Mr. Hayden said the county will have the site appraised, make Mr. Jett an offer, and take legal action to condemn the property if he refuses.
"We've got a significant problem that has plagued the people of Baltimore County, and we want to solve it," Mr. Hayden said at a press conference yesterday.
Fire officials said the fire, under a five-acre portion of the tract, may burn for another six months. Chief Elwood Banister said fire officials will continue to take aerial photographs to assess its progress and seek ways to put it out.
But he said the county may wait until spring before attacking the fire because its size and depth make it nearly impossible to lTC
extinguish. Digging up the stumps to douse them with foam or water would cost at least $1 million, Mr. Hayden said.
"It looks like a long-range solution that will make life a lot more livable around here," said Thomas DeMay, president of the Greater Patapsco Community Association.
But Delegate Lawrence A. LaMotte, D-5B, whose district includes the dump, questioned why the county is spending money on a property that has a fire it can't afford to extinguish. "How does this really solve the problem?" he asked. "If you're going to spend the money, spend it on putting the damn fire out."
Mr. Hayden said money to buy the property likely would come from capital budget funds set aside for parkland acquisition.
Timothy Reiter, a Catonsville real estate broker who does appraisals for the state farmland preservation program, said that, based on his review of property sales in Baltimore County going back to 1989, agriculturally zoned land in the Granite area would sell for as much as $7,000 an acre. That adds up to $245,000 for the 35-acre site.
But Michael P. Tanczyn, Mr. Jett's attorney, said because the stump dump and tree farm still are major sources of income for his client, he likely would dispute those estimates. In the year before the fire started, he said, the business had made $750,000 in dumping fees.