Composting yard accused of zoning violations Official says facility is legal

area residents want Dorsey site closed

July 09, 1996|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Continuing their long-running attack on the regional composting facility at the Anne Arundel-Howard county line, neighbors are claiming the yard violates local zoning laws.

In a letter sent yesterday to Joseph W. Rutter Jr., director of planning and zoning in Howard County, the facility's opponents say that although the site is zoned for heavy industrial use, yard-debris composting is not among the area's allowable uses.

They also say the composting yard does not meet other zoning standards, including one for government uses and one for fetid odors.

"We would like to see the facility closed," said Brian Moore, who lives on the Anne Arundel County side of the 56-acre Dorsey yard. He said Lennox Park residents have put up with stenches from the yard for more than six months.

Moore and his neighbors are being advised by Thomas Dernoga, the Laurel lawyer who directed the successful campaign against Jack Kent Cooke's proposal to put a National Football League stadium in Anne Arundel County.

But Rutter said the yard does not have to comply with the zoning law.

"Use as a government facility [is] permitted in any zoning district," Rutter said. "If it wasn't government doing this, if it was a private contractor, then it would have to go under a solid-waste district."

He said he would ask county lawyers to check into the matter.

The Lennox Park residents say Maryland Environmental Service, the quasi-private state agency that runs the facility, should be viewed as a private contractor. They point to MES' newsletter to the community in which it says it is a self-supporting entity, not exempt from regulatory scrutiny.

"I know the zoning was looked into and checked out," said James W. Peck, MES director. He referred zoning questions to Rutter.

An agreement among Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Howard counties calls for the site to be jointly owned by the three jurisdictions and managed by MES. Hailed as a model of regional cooperation, the $5.9 million venture has been troubled since opening last fall to take leaves.

Nearby residents in Anne Arundel and Howard have lodged hundreds of foul-odor complaints with the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE). The MDE issued 14 citations this year, but officials no longer are writing violation notices. Instead, they say, they are trying to work with MES to stop the problems.

"We have complained. They come up with a different excuse every time," Moore said.

During the fall, the facility was not ready in time for its Oct. 1 opening and mountains of leaves created smells that caused neighbors and their pets to be ill. Equipment didn't arrive in time, there were weather-related problems, and the yard's original operator, Browning-Ferris Industries, parted company with MES.

On June 11, vandals brought operations at the composting facility to a halt when they damaged two key pieces of equipment. Work resumed at the yard on June 25.

Pub Date: 7/09/96

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