Opponents of compost site say it violates zoning laws Facility doesn't have to comply, official says

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

Opponents of the regional composting facility on the Anne Arundel-Howard county line are attacking the operation at its foundation, claiming it violates local zoning laws.

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

They also say the yard does not meet other Howard 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 there for more than six months.

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

Rutter said the facility does not have to comply with zoning laws.

"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."

However, he said he would ask lawyers to check into the matter.

The Lennox Park residents believe Maryland Environmental Service, the quasi-private state agency that runs the facility, should be viewed as a private contractor. They point to the agency's newsletter 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. Although it has issued 14 citations this year, MDE officials say they are noting the complaints but are trying to LTC work with MES to stop the problem instead of writing violation notices.

The facility was not ready for its Oct. 1 opening, and mountains of leaves created odors that caused neighbors to be ill. Equipment didn't arrive in time, there were weather-related woes and then-operator Browning-Ferris Industries and MES parted company.

Pub Date: 7/09/96

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