The Harford People's Counsel has turned down a citizens group seeking to determine whether the Council Council acted correctly in granting a gravel company permission to expand an Abingdon rubble fill.
On Tuesday, members of the Concerned Citizens of Abingdon gave the People's Counsel Advisory Board, which assists citizens on zoning cases,a list of questions they think should be explored to determine whether the County Council properly approved an 18-acre expansion at the Spencer rubble fill. The dump is operated by Spencer Sand & Gravel Inc.
The council voted in January to add the expansion to the county'ssolid-waste management plan. The Maryland Department of the Environment is reviewing company plans to determine whether an expansion permit will be issued.
The citizens group wants to determine whether Spencer should have been exempted from a 1991 county law that set strict regulations for rubble fills.
Following a presentation by the citizens, some members of the advisory board said they do not believe the questions about the rubble fill are their responsibility to investigate. The vote to reject the request for assistance was 3-0, with one abstention. Two board members were not at the meeting; a third position is vacant.
"This thing is such a bag of worms," board memberSteven Sheinin said. "To me, it's a County Council problem. I don't really think it's something the People's Counsel ought to get involved in."
The People's Counsel provides free legal representation forcitizens in county zoning cases. A seven-member advisory board decides which cases will be taken on by the People's Counsel attorney.
At Tuesday's meeting, Sheinin said the citizens group has other ways to get the questions addressed, such as an upcoming public hearing bythe state Environment Department.
"A special exception seems to have been made to exempt one site," said Jan Stinchcomb, a member of the citizens group. "I just want to make sure the exemption was properly made."
The law was established to protect citizens following the controversy surrounding Maryland Reclamation Associates Inc.'s planto develop a rubble fill off Gravel Hill Road near Havre de Grace.
The law states that rubble fills must be at least 100 acres in size. To be exempt from the law, rubble fill operators had to apply for astate permit by Feb. 12, 1991.
Stinchcomb presented the board with state documents showing that Spencer did not apply for its state permit until March 6, 1991 -- nearly one month after the county deadline.
John Goheen, spokesman for the Environment Department, said theagency had informal talks with Spencer about the proposed expansion months before the company submitted its application.
Noting that the fill is surrounded by homes, Stinchcomb questioned whether Spencermeets the county's requirement of being 1,000 feet from residential areas.
The citizens group also wanted the People's Counsel to examine whether Spencer met county rules for notifying area residents of its expansion plans.
Spencer notified about 500 property owners atthe time it was seeking county approval for its expansion. County law requires notification of the owners of property within 2,500 feet of a site.
Members of the citizens group say they conducted a countof property owners in the 2,500-foot area of the rubble fill and found 1,600 homes.
The group also wanted the People's Counsel to check that Spencer followed proper state and county procedures in the application process.