The Harford County Council voted, 7-0, Tuesday night to ask Maryland's highest court for a ruling on whether the county can block a proposed Gravel Hill Road asbestos and rubble landfill.
Two weeks ago, the council lost its appeal to the Court of Special Appeals, which ruled the council exceeded its authority in 1990 by removing the proposed rubble fill from its solid waste management plan.
In that opinion, a three-judge panel of the state's second-highest court upheld a ruling by Harford Circuit Judge Cypert O. Whitfill, who said it was up to the state Department of the Environment to approve landfill sites.
In the appellate court opinion, Judge Paul E. Alpert noted that counties have had a lesser role in the permit-approval process since 1988 when a state law turned most of the authority over to MDE.
The decision was a victory for Maryland Reclamation Associates Inc., which has been trying to establish the rubble fill near Havre de Grace since September 1989. Maryland Reclamation sued thecouncil and the county after its rubble fill, which had previously been approved by the council, was removed from the solid waste management plan in May 1990.
A second case, now pending before the Court of Special Appeals, may be the one to provide a definitive answer as to whether Maryland Reclamation can move forward with its plans.
In that case, Maryland Reclamation sued the county and the council over a zoning law passed last March and an accompanying resolution that,for a second time, removed the proposed rubble fill from the county's solid waste management plan.
The company claims the law, which set size and other standards for rubble fills, and the resolution werepassed to disrupt its efforts to get a state permit for a rubble landfill.
To obtain a state permit, a rubble fill must meet all localzoning standards and be included in a county's solid waste plan.
The new zoning law requires rubble fill sites to be at least 100 acres and 1,000 feet away from the nearest building.
Maryland Reclamation's site is 68 acres and would not meet the distance requirement.
In its short debate over whether to appeal the first case -- defending the council's authority to remove the rubble fill from the solid waste management plan -- the council focused on how much it has already spent on legal fees.
So far, the council has spent more than $68,000 on legal fees in that case, and another $10,000 on the second suit.
Should the Court of Appeals agree to hear the case, the council decided it will pay for those legal costs using $30,925 it has saved from its current budget.
If the Court of Appeals refuses to hear the case, the Court of Special Appeals' ruling will stand.