Community fighting trucking company's expansion proposal

Residents say area is already burdened by excessive noise and exhaust fumes

July 19, 2005|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,SUN STAFF

Residents rallying against the plans of a southwest Baltimore County trucking company to expand closer to their small Lansdowne neighborhood will take their concerns about noise and pollution to a county board today.

New England Motor Freight Co. plans to renovate and expand its terminal to accommodate 300 trucks - up from about 70 - and increase the number of trailers parked on the site from 131 to 260. The company's plan was approved by a zoning commissioner in September, who granted New England Motor Freight a special exception to rules that require trucking companies to be set back 300 feet from residences.

Residents - who have done everything from researching zoning regulations to selling raffle tickets to raise money for their legal team - say the expanded operation would come within 30 feet of houses and would intensify 24-hour truck noise and diesel fumes in their Bloomfield neighborhood. J. Carroll Holzer, the attorney representing the community, says that under zoning regulations, the company shouldn't be operating at all.

"We're trying to preserve the tranquillity of our neighborhood," said Lorna Rudnikas, president of the Greater Bloomfield Community Association. "There are rules, regulations and laws in place to protect residential areas, with our particular plight in mind. Our focus is to make sure these laws are not circumvented."

The county's Board of Appeals began hearing the case last Thursday and is scheduled to hear testimony today and Thursday.

Plans by the company to expand were approved but never acted on in 1998 and 2001, said G. Scott Barhight, an attorney representing the company.

Myron P. Shevell, the chairman of the New Jersey-based company, testified last week, saying he'd move his Baltimore County operations to Virginia - and with it about 100 new jobs - if the company can't move forward with plans for its 17-acre site, which includes about 3 acres in Baltimore City near Washington Boulevard.

A Maryland Department of the Environment official testified Thursday that the company's trucks already exceed state noise restrictions. An associate professor at the Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health also testified on residents' behalf.

Because Bloomfield families already live with noise and exhaust fumes 24 hours a day, said Professor Timothy Buckley, "I'm concerned that there may be an issue of environmental justice here."

"For every foot that facility comes closer to the community, the impact is exponentially greater," he said.

Barhight said the company complies with emissions regulations and wasn't aware of any noise violations until last week.

People's Counsel Peter Max Zimmerman, who represents the public in Baltimore County land-use and environmental matters, also is objecting to the approval granted to New England Motor Freight Co. last year by then-zoning commissioner Lawrence E. Schmidt.

In his opening arguments last week, Zimmerman said that the company needs to comply with the trucking regulations adopted by the county in 1976 or request a variance if it wants to expand closer to the nearby homes.

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