Howard Co. nears compromise over trash transfer station Company built structure without county approval

September 04, 1998|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

Howard County officials say they are near an agreement that would allow a Baltimore recycling company to keep a transfer station that was built in Elkridge without county approval.

In exchange for several concessions, Partners Quality Recycling Services would not have to move or raze the structure at the end of Kit Kat Road, said Joseph W. Rutter Jr., director of the county Department of Planning and Zoning and one of the architects of the compromise.

According to the proposed agreement, Partners Quality would have to install a turnaround lane for county snow removal trucks on the site and dedicate a 15-foot-wide easement along the front of the property to the county. The compromise would cancel a Nov. 10 Board of Appeals hearing on the project.

"I know that it looks like I'm letting the guy off the hook," said Rutter, who has been highly critical of the unapproved structure. "I don't agree with that. I haven't cut him one break."

He said it was possible the building would receive approval from the Board of Appeals despite its renegade status.

"It would've been a roll of the dice," he said. "I think I would've made a good argument, but what if I lose? Then he gets a variance, and we get nothing."

Rutter said he expected criticism for his decision, but one local community activist was satisfied.

"We're not looking to have these people flogged in the public square," Kevin Doyle, vice president of the Greater Elkridge Community Association, said of the developer. "A reasonable compromise is the best solution."

Company President Walter H. Kennell did not return a request for a telephone interview, and his attorney, Richard B. Talkin, declined to comment.

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

Kennell approached the county Department of Planning and Zoning about building the 11,250-square-foot structure on the 12.2-acre site, though neither a site development plan nor a building permit had been approved for the transfer station.

Rutter 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 approval until an inspector stumbled on the structure during a routine visit to the site in June.

Shocked by Kennell's disregard for county procedure, Rutter said he withdrew his support for the project and ordered Kennell to reapply to the Department of Planning and Zoning.

County inspectors could have fined Kennell for building without a permit, but they ruled the company avoided that on a technicality -- the only relief from such a fine is an approved site development plan, but the developer was not far enough along in the approval process to get that.

Kennell asked the Planning Board to allow the northeastern corner of the recycling station to sit closer to the road than allowed by county regulations, which require it to be 80 feet from the center of the road -- 50 feet back from the standard 60-foot right-of-way. On Aug. 12, the board recommended denial of the request, noting the danger of setting a precedent by approving a project that had been built without permission.

During that meeting, Talkin argued that zoning officials erred in requiring the company to use the 60-foot right of way because in 1962 the county set a precedent for Kit Kat Road by using a 30-foot standard right of way.

Rutter said the Board of Appeals could have agreed, especially after his staff discovered that only 2,140 feet of Kit Kat Road -- dozens of feet short of the building -- is measured as a public right-of-way.

Talkin could have argued that the road running by the building was not subject to right-of-way setback requirements, Rutter said.

Rutter said the company's five-year, $1.59 million contract with the county to collect recyclables had no influence on the county's willingness to compromise.

Rutter also said that the company must get an approved site development plan, which could require more work because the building's parking lots lack curbs and the storm-water management system is inadequate.

Doyle of the Greater Elkridge Community Association said he will urge county planners to remain vigilant.

"We do want [Partners Quality] to be held to the requirements of the site development plan," Doyle said.

Pub Date: 9/04/98

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