Will Bel Air's refusal to pay the county a $35-a-ton dumping fee for putting garbage in the county landfill affect the town's plans to build a park on 50 acres near the John Carroll High School?
The County Council balked Tuesday at transferring ownership of the property -- on Route 22 near the John Carroll High School -- to Bel Air, delaying the town's park vote by one week.
The county bought the property from the family of John Hoza, a longtime Harford farmer, for about $2 million in 1990. The county used a combination of its own money and funds from Project Open Space, a program which raises money to buy potential parkland using fees charged by the state for recording property transfers, deeds and other documents. Under the agreement, the county was to eventually transfer ownership and responsibility for maintaining the land to the town.
But Tuesday the County Council balked at the deed transfer, complaining about outstanding issues between the county and town and the fact that no members of the town commission attended the meeting.
"With other issues outstanding between the town and the county, and the council considering an action that is favorable to the town of Bel Air, I would hope the town of Bel Air would move forward in looking after the county's interests as well," Council President Jeffrey D. Wilson told the only town employee at the meeting.
One of those outstanding issues is Bel Air's refusal to pay the county a $35-a-ton dumping fee for putting garbage in the county landfill.
The controversy concerns a 1969 agreement under which Bel Air turned over its 9-acre landfill to the county as a site for the county's Detention Center.
In return, Harford guaranteed Bel Air the right to haul trash free for 99 years to the county's Tollgate dump, which closed in 1987. The deal was updated to allow free dumping at the Scarboro landfill.
So far, the town has refused to pay the new $35 fee, instituted in June for everyone dumping trash at the county's landfill.
Negotiations to resolve the dispute continue, but Councilwoman Theresa M. Pierno, D-District C, said she didn't think the Hoza property "should be used as a chip in bargaining over other issues."
"I didn't feel this was a controversial issue. If you're talking about postponing because you have questions, I haven't heard any questions," said Ms. Pierno.
But Mr. Wilson said the town commissioners "had plenty of notice this was potentially controversial, because I voted against [the Hoza property transfer] at a Board of Estimates meeting because the issue had not been fully discussed by the council."
Councilman Robert S. Wagner, R-District E, argued that the proposed park "was Bel Air's deal all the way," and should be allowed to go through.
Town Planning Director Carol Deibel, the only town employee to attend the meeting, told the council Tuesday the town plans to turn the property into a park, possibly including nature trails and an arboretum.
"It will be a beautiful gateway to the county seat," Ms. Deibel said. She said a survey showed town residents want to see the property used as a park.
The property was sold to the county because the Hoza family wanted to preserve one of the few remaining rural sections of the town, said Charles Craster, son-in-law of the original property owner in a 1990 interview with the Harford County Sun.
"We were getting an average of one or two telephone calls or letters from developers a month, but the old gentlemen used to always say, 'This is the green,' " said Mr. Craster, emphasizing the word "green."
"We wanted to respect that. And Mrs. [Jenovefa] Hoza is European, from Czechoslovakia. Europeans have a kind of regard and respect for the people that make up their hamlet. She wanted to give the people of Bel Air the opportunity to enjoy the park."