Officials in Arundel question landfill plan

Okla. Indian tribe wants to purchase 481-acre lot

April 13, 2004|By Childs Walker | Childs Walker,SUN STAFF

An Oklahoma Indian tribe is the latest group interested in developing a landfill on a 481-acre parcel near Odenton -- a project neighbors and Anne Arundel officials have opposed for more than a decade.

County officials said they're also concerned the tribe might attempt to open a gambling facility on the land, though the Delaware Nation of Anadarko, Okla., has not indicated such plans.

County Executive Janet S. Owens sent a letter to the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs last week criticizing the proposed purchase by the Delaware Nation. Owens called the purchase a "transparent" attempt to skirt county and state land-use laws by National Waste Managers Inc., the company that has long sought to build the landfill. She did not document any connection between National Waste Managers and the tribe.

Owens said the county would resist any attempts to build a gambling facility.

"Anne Arundel County strongly opposes any type of gaming or gambling institution being placed upon the property in question at any time," she wrote. "The close proximity of the property to many thousands of residences causes it to be a wholly inappropriate location for any gaming institution."

Attempts to obtain comment from the tribe's president, Bruce Gonzalez, and an attorney representing the tribe were unsuccessful.

The tribe applied for federal government permission to buy the land in October, stating an intention to use the property for a landfill. In recent years, the Delaware Nation has tried to buy 315 acres in Forks Township, Pa., to open a casino there. The tribe has a federal suit pending against state and local officials in Pennsylvania to obtain control of that land.

Warren E. Halle, the Silver Spring developer whose companies include National Waste Managers, refused to comment yesterday. Halle has been seeking state permission to build the landfill.

The landfill would be near Wilson Town, a historic African-American community. The Forks of the Patuxent Improvement Association, which includes Wilson Town residents, has opposed the waste disposal project since it was proposed, expressing fears that pollution from the landfill could leak into the Patuxent and Little Patuxent rivers and might contaminate nearby residential wells.

G. Macy Nelson, a Towson attorney representing the improvement association, said he knew nothing about the Delaware Nation's plans for the property but said his clients would not necessarily oppose the purchase. He said that if the tribe purchases the land, his clients would try to meet with tribal leaders and seek assurances about the use of the property.

Neighbors are awaiting a county Board of Appeals ruling on Halle's request for an extension of the special exception that would allow him to build the landfill. They're also hoping the Maryland Department of the Environment will deny him a permit.

But Indian land is not necessarily subject to the same local and state laws.

"We're concerned that the involvement of the nation is an attempt by the developer to sidestep environmental regulations," said Hamilton F. Tyler, assistant county attorney.

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