Stump dump operator proposes changes in bid to win approval

July 25, 1999|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

In what could prolong what is one of the longest-running zoning controversies in Howard County, a farmer running an unauthorized stump dump in Clarksville has submitted several additional changes in his quest to legalize his operation.

It's unclear whether the Planning Board -- which recommended denial of the project 11 months ago -- will have to review Alfred E. Bassler's proposal again, but the board will answer that question during a meeting Thursday.

Joseph W. Rutter Jr., director of the Department of Planning and Zoning, doesn't want more delays, and said the board will not miss anything if it declines to review the stump-dump project again.

"The issue was, does this need a new technical staff report?" Rutter asked. "I sent my opinion to the Board of Appeals that the case didn't need a new staff report because I felt that the changes were so minor in nature."

Residents opposed to the dump want the case to go forward as soon as possible to the Board of Appeals, which will review it after the Planning Board meeting and will make the final administrative decision on Bassler's request to legalize his operation.

"Let's have the hearing and let the Board of Appeals decide," said David A. Carney, a lawyer representing Clarksville residents Robert and Karin Van Dyke.

Bassler is seeking a special exception to legally use 68.7 acres of his 430-acre farm to run a yard-waste composting facility, sawmill and mulch manufacturing operation.

He has been running the facility for more than 10 years despite complaints from nearby homeowners who argue that the compost results in dangerous fires and a noxious stench.

Some of the changes that Bassler submitted to the Department of Planning and Zoning include reducing the proposed hours of operation, to 7 a.m. to 5: 30 p.m.; increasing the proposed number of full-time employees from seven to 12; and adding more berms to isolate the facility from residential developments.

Bassler's attorney, Thomas E. Lloyd, did not respond to a request for comment.

Rutter half-joked that the case "has been on and off the [appeals] board's schedule one hundred times" and predicted that it might not be reviewed until next year.

He said he is getting as impatient as the neighbors who oppose the dump.

"Either get him in compliance with certain conditions or tell him no and let's go back to court to stop the operation," Rutter said. "It's frustrating to the neighbors who can't get a yes or no for 10 years."

Pub Date: 7/25/99

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