The County Council approved a bill last night that will make it tougher for a longtime county oil recycling business to operate a new plant in North Point.
The change to the zoning regulations, which passed unanimously, now forces U.S. Filter Recovery Services to seek a zoning commissioner's approval before starting up at its new site - and appears to render moot questions of whether the company is in the business of refining or recycling oil.
Under the bill, businesses that recycle, process or recover oil must obtain a special exception to operate in the county's heavy manufacturing zones. The heightened approval process, which includes public hearings, had been required only for oil refineries.
The bill's passage comes amid community concern about the impact of the plant, which would operate near Back River, on area neighborhoods. At the council's work session last week, community leaders said they were concerned that the plant would harm their quality of life.
It also comes on the heels of county officials' decision in the summer to rescind approvals for U.S. Filter after learning through Maryland Department of the Environment records that the company uses heat and chemicals in its work - a process the officials said sounded more like refining than recycling oil.
Officials with U.S. Filter have insisted that they are in the business of recycling, not refining, oil and have asked a zoning commissioner to decide in which category the plant falls.
Yesterday, Vincent A. Glorioso, business unit manager for U.S. Filter, told council members that he is convinced, despite assurances to the contrary, that the legislation was created specifically to target his business.
And he said he wonders what message the council's decision will send to companies seeking to do business in the county.
"While other jurisdictions in the United States tout recycling, Baltimore County has just taken two steps backwards," he said.
Despite the passage of the bill last night, U.S. Filter, which operated in Sparrows Point until last spring, still plans to move forward with plans to ask a zoning commissioner for a ruling on the recycling-versus-refining question, said William D. Shaughnessy Jr., the lawyer representing the company. The company also has an application for a special exception still pending, he said.
Hearings in the case have been scheduled for next month, he said.
In other business, the council unanimously approved the appointment of William J. Wiseman III, 62, as the county's new zoning commissioner. Wiseman has worked as an assistant county attorney since 1980.