The County Council postponed discussing an intricate countywide water and sewerage plan for the second time last night, voting to hire a consultant to study the issue.
The 5-2 vote to table the hearing cleared out the council chambers, and dozens of people who had come to hear the discussion left disappointed. The sewerage proposal, headed for defeat until County Executive Janet S. Owens stepped in to lobby for it, has the potential to affect nearly every corner of the county because development usually follows wherever water and sewer lines are put.
The bill, if approved, would become a master plan to extend pipes to the edges of the county for the next 10 to 20 years.
After the vote, Owens said she was bewildered by the decision to postpone what would have been an elaborate presentation by county officials. The discussions will temporarily move out of the public arena while the issue is studied.
"Why not use every opportunity to look at what is being proposed," she said, calling it a "missed opportunity."
In other business, the council voted 5-2 to change the zoning code so that natural wood waste recycling centers -- such as A-A Recycle & Sand in Pasadena -- cannot operate in residential areas. Council members Bill D. Burlison and Clifford R. Roop voted against the bill.
The vote was the culmination of a seven-year fight between A-A Recycle & Sand owner William H. DeBaugh Jr. and two dozen nearby residents who hate the noise, dust and commotion from his business. But it was also the end of a long-standing breach of ethics by former Councilman Thomas W. Redmond Sr.
In December, the county ethics commission found Redmond in violation of ethics laws for championing legislation that allowed DeBaugh, his friend and business associate, to keep operating in the residential area.
DeBaugh opened his business in 1992, even though he did not have the proper zoning permits. He continued to operate until the issue was resolved by the council. But in February 1997, Redmond suddenly began lobbying for a bill that would allow such recycling facilities in residential communities.
The ethics commission found that Redmond failed to mention to the council that he did up to $5,000 worth of business a year with DeBaugh's company. The ethics commission's report found Redmond "used his office for the gain of himself" noting that DeBaugh would not have been able to continue operating without Redmond's legislation.
Last night, residents said they felt vindicated and that someone had finally listened to them.
"It's been a long hard fight," said Helen Warfield, who lives behind DeBaugh's business in the 8200 block of Baltimore-Annapolis Blvd. and has led the fight over the years. "We believe in the recycling and composting business, but it never belonged next to residential neighborhoods."
Tomi Homens, who also lives nearby, said, "They had no business being there in the first place."
DeBaugh said he was surprised by the vote. He has three years to close his shop.
"This happened because [Councilwoman] Shirley Murphy made a political promise to shut me down, and that's what she did," he said. "What are you going to do? I guess that's the way the cookies crumble."
The council also began tackling a bill proposed by Councilman Bill Burlison providing for the election of school board members. The vote on that bill was not taken by late last night.