Transfer station variances opposed Planning Board pleases residents

case going to appeals panel

August 13, 1998|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

Citing concerns about setting a precedent, the Howard County Planning Board opposed requests last night for variances that would allow a recycling company to retain a transfer station that was built without county approval.

The four-member board said supporting the two variances, which would reduce setbacks from a public right-of-way, would send the wrong message to developers.

"My biggest concern is, are we setting a precedent?" said board member Haskell Arnold, who rarely publicly comments on a case. "We'd be saying that it's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission."

Said board member Joan Lancos: "I think we're all mad that this guy built this [without approval]. Are we telling others that whatever you want, build it?"

The Planning Board's opposition delighted a handful of Elkridge residents who said they are worried about traffic, pollution and noise from trucks going to and from the transfer station.

"We're very pleased," said Kevin Doyle, vice president of the Greater Elkridge Community Association. "And we're optimistic that the Board of Appeals will agree with us."

The Planning Board's decision could carry significant weight at the Board of Appeals, which will have the final say on the variances a week from today.

The controversy began in June when Walter H. Kennell of Partners Quality Recycling Services Inc. of Baltimore approached the county Department of Planning and Zoning about building the 11,250-square-foot structure on 12.2 acres at the end of Kit Kat Road in Elkridge.

It is not certain how long the transfer station has existed, but Partners Quality submitted a site development plan to the county in March.

Planning Director Joseph W. Rutter Jr. has said his staff worked with Kennell on the requirements of such a development, but was unaware that the transfer station had been built without proper approval until an inspector stumbled on the structure during a routine visit to the site last month.

Rutter then withdrew his support for the project, forcing Kennell to apply for the variances because parts of the building sit in the public right-of-way.

Last night, Kennell's attorney, Richard B. Talkin, told the board that the presence of Deep Run and a 100-year flood plain limit the space left to develop.

Because of those limitations, company officials extended parts of the transfer station into the public right-of-way.

"This is a unique site with unique features," Talkin said. "We're just trying to maximize the economic development of this site."

But Arnold and Lancos reminded Talkin that his clients had not received permission to build.

"If the building had been pre-approved and built, you wouldn't be here arguing for this variance," Lancos said.

Board member Robert F. Geiger said the board's job was not to punish Kennell or the company.

"I think a large mistake was made, and they are paying for that mistake," Geiger said. "We have to get over it."

After the board said it was withholding support for the variances, both Kennell and Talkin refused to answer questions.

The decision is a major setback for Kennell, who has a five-year, $1.5 million contract with the county to collect recyclables and now is operating out of a temporary location in Elkridge.

If the Board of Appeals decides against granting the variances, Rutter said his office would ask Kennell to tear down some or all of the building.

"Did the guy learn his lesson? I hope so. We got our pound of flesh," Rutter said.

Pub Date: 8/13/98

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