Time Bombs in South Carroll

March 06, 1995

Thanks to some confused signals from Carroll County officials, developers Michael Reeves and Henry L. Blevins may have escaped a state effort to remove buried construction debris in their Homedale Road subdivision in South Carroll. But the fact remains that the tree stumps, limbs and other building waste covered by a layer of soil will cause problems for future homeowners there.

County water resources officials have identified about 100 sink holes in Carroll that were caused when rotting stumps and wood could no longer support the tons of soil that covered them. The developers responsible for creating these earthen time bombs are long gone, and the homeowners are now stuck with the expense of filling the holes.

Although burying construction detritus has been illegal in Maryland since 1988, Carroll's inspectors had been turning a blind eye to the practice. After the county's Environmental Affairs Advisory Board became aware of the law and informed inspectors, regulation was stepped up.

Mr. Reeves casts himself as the unfortunate victim of a change in policy. He claims unnamed county officials gave him permission to follow past disposal practices, only then to be cited for violating state law.

He convinced new Commissioner Richard T. Yates -- that professed advocate of quality home construction -- to pen a letter to the Maryland Department of the Environment arguing that county officials had misled Mr. Reeves.

Regardless of who is responsible for the buried waste, homeowners need to be informed about the matter and the potential for problems. Since Mr. Reeves and Mr. Blevins have demonstrated no concern for future home buyers by burying the debris, they are not likely to disclose its existence to them.

If regulations were properly enforced, there would be no problem. The county now finds itself uncomfortably powerless while two developers can sell lots laden with potential problems.

The probability is high that the county government -- read: Carroll's taxpayers -- may be responsible for clearing out the debris and filling the sinkholes. County officials should explore the possibility of having a warning registered with the land records that would accompany transfer of these lots.

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