Stump dump deal is signed Mulching allowed on part of fire site

county drops suits

November 13, 1993|By Glenn Small | Glenn Small,Staff Writer

James F. Jett is back in business.

His 2 1/2 -year legal struggle with Baltimore County ended quietly this week when County Executive Roger B. Hayden signed an agreement to drop two court cases against Mr. Jett, owner of the controversial "stump dump" in Granite.

Under the agreement, reached Tuesday but kept quiet until a late afternoon news conference yesterday, Mr. Jett can store and mulch tree stumps on one-third of the site where a stump dump fire burned for more than 18 months. The remaining two-thirds will be planted with Christmas trees.

Nothing else will be done with the land for three years.

"We're pleased," said Michael P. Tanczyn, attorney for Mr. Jett.

On Feb. 2, 1991, a stubborn, smoky fire broke out at Mr. Jett's dump on Dogwood Road and burned for more than 18 months. State officials finally buried the 5-acre pile of stumps under 100,000 cubic yards of dirt. The job cost the county $700,000.

The county took Mr. Jett to court in the spring of 1991 and won an injunction stopping him from accepting tree stumps to mulch. Judge James T. Smith Jr. said mulching again would pose a further fire hazard.

Now that the fire hazard is abated, county officials feared Judge Smith might let Mr. Jett use the 5-acre site again, said William J. Wiseman III, an assistant county attorney.

As part of the agreement, the county will drop that suit and its suit against Mr. Jett to recover the cost of fighting the fire. County officials felt they might lose the second case because Judge Smith had ruled it was obligated to fight the fire.

Yesterday, Mr. Hayden tried to put the best spin on the settlement, saying the county could avoid costly litigation while requiring Mr. Jett to get state and county permits.

Mr. Jett, who is supposed to have state and county permits to operate, has neither. He says his operation should be "grandfathered" because it existed before the regulations.

"We didn't see the sense in going after something that could go on for years," Mr. Hayden said. "We determined that the best course of action was to get out of court."

Mr. Hayden and Mr. Wiseman also said that part of the motivation came from Mr. Jett, who has threatened to sue the county in federal court. Mr. Jett feels he has been persecuted by the county.

Granite residents, who have protested Mr. Jett's operation for more than 10 years, were not happy about the agreement -- although they were resigned to it.

"The county gets what it wants right away," said Kathleen Skullney, one of Mr. Jett's longtime opponents. "Jett gets what he wants right away. We get nothing -- right away."

But Mrs. Skullney said Mr. Hayden promised community members he would not allow Mr. Jett to operate, if Mr. Jett violated zoning or other laws.

Asked if they intended to hold him to that promise, she said, "You betcha. . . . This is an election year coming up, and we do plan to hold him to those guarantees."

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