Composting facility that drew complaints from neighbors likely will be sold, closed Proposed sale needs OK of 3 county councils

December 30, 1997|By Craig Timberg | Craig Timberg,SUN STAFF

The operators of a foul-smelling compost facility in Dorsey have agreed to sell the property to a Reisterstown developer -- meaning neighbors may have succeeded in closing the facility forever.

Howard, Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties joined forces to open the $5.9 million facility in 1995 only to have it close a year later in the face of growing political pressure. The land sale will recover about half of the expense of building the facility.

Maryland Environmental Service, a quasi-public agency that ran the facility for the tri-county coalition, recently reached a deal to sell all but 3 acres of the 59-acre site to Rock Realty Inc. of Reisterstown for $3 million.

That's $500,000 less than the counties paid to buy the land several years ago.

The pending sale, which needs the approval of the Howard, Anne Arundel and Baltimore county councils, would eliminate the possibility of the facility resuming operations -- though a transfer station will remain.

"That will be the end of yard-waste composting at that location," said Howard County Public Works Director James Irvin.

The composting facility is off U.S. 1 on Dorsey Run Road, on the border of Howard and Anne Arundel counties.

Officials expected it to compost 30,000 tons of yard waste a year, but neighbors a few hundred feet away in Lennox Park soon complained of noxious smells, burning eyes, headaches, respiratory problems and nausea.

Neighbors made 200 odor complaints, filed a $22 million lawsuit and enlisted the support of local politicians in their fight against the facility.

It closed a year after opening, in November 1996. Officials said the closure was temporary, but it has operated only as a transfer station ever since.

"It was a bad location to begin with," said Howard County Councilman C. Vernon Gray, a Democrat whose district includes Dorsey. "We're losing money on the deal."

The remaining debt, about $2.9 million, would be split among the three participating counties based on expected use. Anne Arundel is responsible for half the debt; Howard and Baltimore counties each are responsible for about one-quarter, say Maryland Environmental Service officials.

The three counties continue to use the transfer station, which has drawn occasional odor complaints but far fewer than the composting facility did.

Three acres of land and the transfer station -- where yard waste from each county is consolidated for its trip to a compost facility in Prince George's County -- are not slated to be sold to Rock Realty.

If the counties approve the sale, Rock Realty will be free to develop the remaining 56 acres for manufacturing or industrial use.

Mark Levy, head of Rock Realty, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The land's zoning category, M-2, is the heaviest manufacturing category in Howard County. The trend along the U.S. 1 corridor is toward warehouse distribution centers that take advantage of the area's strategic location between Baltimore and Washington.

"I think people are happy to see that the compost facility is not coming back," said Thomas E. Dernoga, lawyer for the neighbors.

Pub Date: 12/30/97

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