Zoning Board vote quashes opposition to creating new solid waste district

March 31, 1993|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Staff Writer

Efforts to block a zoning category for privately owned trash incinerators or composting facilities were narrowly defeated in a Zoning Board work session yesterday.

County Council members, sitting as the Zoning Board, approved zoning regulations for a "solid waste district" that could be applied in existing heavy manufacturing zones.

The 3-2 work session vote is not binding, but determines how county planners will write the final draft of the zoning regulations, which also will require final council approval.

Zoning Board Chairman C. Vernon Gray, an eastern Columbia Democrat, and Shane Pendergrass, a southeastern county Democrat, voted against creating the new zoning "overlay" district, proposed by county planners.

The overlay district would allow landowners to petition the board to use heavy manufacturing land for facilities for such purposes as burning trash, sorting recyclable materials, composting trash or yard waste and transferring waste from trucks to rail cars for shipment.

Paul Farragut, a western Columbia Democrat, cast the deciding vote in what turned out to be a debate on the merits of trash-burning power plants and other methods of disposing of solid waste.

"I think it makes sense to go ahead with this thing because the council has the ability to react to each individual project," he said.

Like all county elected officials, Mr. Farragut said later he wants the county first to reduce the source of waste by recycling and cutting down on packaging as much as possible. The zoning district could help private firms work toward that end, he said.

But Mr. Farragut said he has not decided whether he would oppose an incinerator to burn whatever county trash remains. Among other things, he said he wants to learn whether state-of-the-art incinerators' emissions can meet the Baltimore area's strict federal pollution limits.

Republicans Charles C. Feaga of western Howard and Darrel Drown of Ellicott City have long been on record as supporting trash-burning power plants as an alternative to expanding the county's toxin-leaking landfill in Marriottsville.

"We keep talking, but we've got to go ahead and bite the bullet and make some things happen here," Mr. Feaga said.

"And we've got to keep our options open at this stage of the game," continued Mr. Drown.

The county has missed a Jan. 31 deadline for submitting its 10-year solid waste master plan to the state Department of the Environment. State officials have given the county an indefinite extension for the plan, which must be approved by the council.

Concern about the county's solid waste plans was heightened by the September discovery of toxic solvents in bedrock well below the county's Alpha Ridge Landfill. Results from a newer sample about a week ago showed smaller amounts of the toxins, such as dry cleaning and grease-cutting solvents, but the levels still far exceed federal drinking water standards.

Ms. Pendergrass said she preferred to wait on adopting a solid waste zoning district until the county has "a better idea" of what to do with its trash.

On Feb. 1, the county's Solid Waste Advisory Committee released a seven-page report that recommended source reduction, recycling and composting as much as possible. Remaining waste should go to a trash-burning power plant, not into a landfill, the committee concluded.

Ms. Pendergrass said she has asked County Executive Charles I. Ecker to delay sending the committee report to the council until county officials can estimate the costs of various solid waste options.

The board's next comprehensive rezoning work session is scheduled for 9 a.m., April 8 in the George Howard county office building.

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