County bill gets mixed reviews

Speakers applaud, decry measure aimed at plants that recycle, recover oil

Special exception requirement

Legislation could affect U.S. Filter operation

September 29, 2004|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

A County Council bill that could make it tougher for a longtime oil recycling business to operate in North Point is the best way to ensure that council members yesterday.

With a vote on the bill scheduled Monday, members of the communities adjacent to the proposed site for a U.S. Filter Recovery Services plant near Back River and officials with the company used the council's work session to vent their concerns.

The bill would force plants that recover or process oil and oil recycling plants like the one to be run by U.S. Filter to obtain a "special exception" from a zoning commissioner to operate in the county's heavy manufacturing zones. That level of approval, which involves public hearings, is required only for oil refineries under current regulations.

"I'm at a loss as to why the council is considering a bill which is directly targeting a 54-year corporate partner in Baltimore County," said Vincent A. Glorioso, business unit manager for U.S. Filter, which operated a plant on the International Steel Group Inc. property in Sparrows Point until spring.

Grandiose promises

But community leaders said they have suffered their share of headaches with businesses that came in making "grandiose promises" but ended up creating problems.

"We are thankful that our councilmen stepped in," said Fred Thiess, the president of the Wells McComas Citizens Improvement Association. "This is not to target them. This is for the good of our community."

The bill is co-sponsored by three of the council's seven members. It comes on the heels of county officials' decision to rescind approvals for U.S. Filters proposed operation after they said they found information in Maryland Department of the Environment records that the company used heating and to refining than recycling.

Not a refiner

U.S. Filter officials, who had moved equipment to the new site, insisted they were in the recycling, not the refining, business, and asked a zoning commissioner to decide which definition applies. They also filed for a special exception and variance. Hearings scheduled this week and last week before the zoning commissioner were postponed and have not been rescheduled.

If the bill is approved, whether U.S. Filter is deemed to be a refinery or a recycling plant would no longer matter. In either case, the company would need a special exception to operate on the new site, and that process would likely bring out a number of community opponents.

The bill forces a business like U.S. Filter to make its case to the county while also allowing the community to weigh in, said Councilman John A. Olszewski Sr., a Dundalk Democrat who sponsored the bill with Councilman Joseph Bartenfelder, a Fullerton Democrat and Councilman Kenneth N. Oliver, a Randallstown Democrat.

U.S. Filter has been shipping waste oil for recycling to locations in other states in the short term, Glorioso said.

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