State court throws out BFI waste station OK Howard zoning panel, lower court had given firm the go-ahead

April 04, 1996|By Capital News Service

ANNAPOLIS -- The Maryland Court of Special Appeals ruled yesterday that a Howard County zoning panel and Circuit Court were wrong to give Browning Ferris Inc. the go-ahead to construct and operate a solid waste transfer and recovery station in Elkridge.

BFI, an international waste-management company, now operates only a recycling center on the property near the intersection of Meadowridge Road and U.S. 1.

The case stemmed from objections by a then-neighbor, Meadowridge Industrial Center Limited Partnership, which has since sold the business park it owned north of the BFI site.

Representatives of the new party, Westmark Advisors of Los Angeles, could not be reached for comment.

Meadowridge's lawyers argued that Howard County had not complied with a state law governing the establishment of its solid waste management plan.

The company said that, although the County Council held a public hearing when its plan was introduced, the plan changed significantly after that hearing.

There was no public notice or hearing on an amendment that "amounted to 180-degree shift in policy upon which interested persons were deprived of the right to comment," Meadowridge argued.

But Howard County and BFI contended that state law "is silent as to whether additional hearings are required."

The three-judge panel of the appeals court sided with Meadowridge, ruling that "that the failure of Howard County Council to give notice of those changes . . . invalidates those changes. This invalidity . . . nullifies the Zoning Board's approval of BFI's petition."

The initial waste management plan said that "a transfer station will be necessary to support waste export and provided that the county will own and operate the transfer station," according to the court.

However, the court noted that the amendment changed the plan's language, saying that the county "may," rather than "will" operate the station. This permitted BFI to enter the picture.

Court records show that BFI's 17.3-acre site would have been designed to accept 2,000 tons a day of solid waste collected in Howard, Anne Arundel, Harford and Baltimore counties and in Baltimore. The waste was to be compacted into 25-ton loads and shipped to landfills in Virginia and West Virginia.

Paul Johnson, deputy county solicitor at the Howard County Office of Law, said that the County Council -- which acts as the Zoning Board -- needed to be informed on the decision before he could comment.

"We will study the decision and take the appropriate action," Mr. Johnson said.

Attorneys for BFI could not be reached.

Pub Date: 4/04/96

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