Opposition to a proposed waste transfer station in Elkridge was hobbled yesterday when the leading land owner fighting the facility withdrew its opposition to the proposal by Browning Ferris Industries.
At the beginning of the last of three hearings on the proposal, county Zoning Board members were told that Bluestream Limited Partnership had accepted BFI's offer to buy a strip of land for a berm to shield its property from the sights and sounds of the trash facility.
Bluestream owns 79 acres next to the 17-acre BFI property.
Later in the hearing, an Elkridge Community Association representative argued that Councilwoman Shane Pendergrass, 1st District Democrat, should not vote on the case because her campaign for state delegate is being "strongly supported" by a BFI lobbyist.
Ron Tilkins, a director of Elkridge Community Association, cited an earlier letter to the county planning board from Elkridge resident David J. Marc, who wrote that he understood that "Councilwoman Pendergrass' campaign for state delegate is strongly supported by a lawyer who is a lobbyist for BFI."
The letter does not identify the attorney.
Ms. Pendergrass said after the meeting she had "no idea" what Mr. Tilkins was referring to. She said she had received contributions from both sides in the case and disclosed them.
County Council members serve as the zoning board.
BFI has asked for a zoning change to operate the waste transfer facility next to its recycling plant off U.S. 1 on Cemetery Lane.
Bluestream had hired David J. Carney, one of the county's most experienced zoning lawyers, to argue its case, and brought in traffic and other planning experts to rebut BFI's expert testimony at hearings June 15 and 28.
Other nearby property owners, as well as the Elkridge Community Association, stepped in to continue the fight, but were ill-prepared without Bluestream's experts.
Bluestream's managing partner, Arnold Sagner, would not discuss the sale.
Bluestream has said it planned to develop a warehouse and distribution center on the site, which it has owned for 20 years.
BFI's proposed 21,000-square-foot facility would provide an enclosed area where garbage trucks could dump their loads, which would be compacted into 25-ton tractor-trailer loads for shipment to landfills or incinerators outside the Baltimore area.
Yesterday, Eleanor Gyr, a resident of Aladdin Mobile Home Park about three-quarters of a mile south of the site, said residents of her neighborhood already get their share of noise from highway traffic, jetliners approaching Baltimore-Washington International Airport and truck-backing alarms from the former Trucker's Inn.
"I feel we have had enough and should not be asked to accept any more," Ms. Gyr said.
Opponents' concerns about truck traffic are well-founded, said the Rev. Keith Parham, a resident of King and Queen County in central eastern Virginia, where BFI has a regional landfill. The landfill is one of two where BFI plans to send trash from the Elkridge transfer station. The other is in Southeastern Pennsylvania.
"We found in King and Queen that we cannot control the trucks coming to the landfill," said Mr. Parham, who spoke despite BFI's objections that his testimony was irrelevant.
Mr. Tilkins, the Elkridge community leader, said his neighbors opposed the transfer station, despite BFI's claims that they supported the plan.
He said the community was concerned about truck traffic, BFI's request for a rule change to allow development closer to wetlands and the possibility that hazardous material might find its way into ordinary trash sent to the station. He also read from the letter accusing Ms. Pendergrass of a conflict of interest.
Ms. Pendergrass said, however, that Mr. Carney, Bluestream's lawyer, as well as BFI's lawyers and marketing manager have contributed to her campaign.
"It's not like I have an outstanding obligation, for instance," Ms. Pendergrass said, referring to the recent controversy faced by fellow council member C. Vernon Gray, D-3rd.
Mr. Gray recently bowed out of voting on a zoning case involving Laurel Race Course after his opponent in the Sept. 13 primary, Kathryn Mann, called attention to an unpaid $8,000 debt for a fund-raiser at the track in 1989.
The board is scheduled to vote on BFI's petition at a work session at 7 p.m. Monday in the George Howard county office building.