Rezoning proposed for wood recycling business

County Council tried to close the Pasadena operation 6 years ago

July 31, 2005|By Phillip McGowan | Phillip McGowan,SUN STAFF

Six years after trying to close a recycling center in Pasadena, the Anne Arundel County Council is poised to approve a zoning change that would put that plant into legal compliance.

The change is included in the Pasadena-Lake Shore zoning maps, part of the county's most comprehensive zoning makeover in three decades. It would allow A-A Recycle & Sand, a natural wood waste recycling center, to legally operate in a residential area along Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard, near Lake Waterford Park.

The vote on the final package has been pushed back two weeks because of two amendments that will be considered tomorrow night, said Council Chairman Ronald C. Dillon Jr.

The proposed zoning change for A-A Recycle has the support of County Executive Janet S. Owens' administration, as well as Dillon, a Republican who represents the Pasadena area.

"There are people who feel strongly about this issue," Dillon said. "But the surrounding community also sees the benefit for everyone. ... Recycling should be kept in business."

The action would represent a shift from 1999, when the council voted 5-2 to change the zoning code so that natural wood waste recycling centers, such as A-A Recycle & Sand, could not operate in residential areas.

Then-Councilwoman A. Shirley Murphy, a Democrat who represented the Pasadena area, led the fight to try to shut down A-A Recycle. Dillon, who ousted Murphy, supports changing the plant's zoning designation from commercial to industrial. Council members tend to vote the way of colleagues whose districts are affected by zoning changes. With the zoning change, A-A Recycle can apply for a special exception to stay running.

The council's decision in 1999 was supposed to have closed the plant within three years, but owner William H. DeBaugh Jr. kept the business open despite county law and the continued complaints of nearby residents of noise, dust and commotion that emanated from the property. (The plant opened in 1990.)

"I was going to try to stay in business," DeBaugh said last week. "It's my livelihood."

Del. Donald H. Dwyer Jr., an Anne Arundel Republican, said the 1999 law was illegal because it targeted only waste wood recycling businesses designated for certain commercial development. DeBaugh's business is the only one with that zoning designation, which Dwyer said constituted "spot zoning."

Nevertheless, the complaints have continued to rain down on DeBaugh and the county, which last month tried to shut down his business after a 60-day extension to keep operating ran out. The county's Office of Planning and Zoning recently granted DeBaugh a series of extensions to remain open until the council approves the zoning changes.

Dwyer said that DeBaugh's business has complied with state environment law and doesn't see the complaints of nearby residents as legitimate.

A thick stand of trees separates a nearby neighborhood that backs up to DeBaugh's business, but residents say that the noise and smell from the site still permeate the area.

"We don't feel we should have heavy industrial in our backyard," said Helen Warfield, a neighbor who serves as vice president of the Lake Waterford Community Association.

She expressed disappointment about the council's apparent change of heart.

Dillon, who recently examined the business, said he didn't see the adverse impact to nearby residents. He said the 1999 law "unfairly targeted this particular business." However, Dillon said that he's helping DeBaugh and community interests to negotiate a restriction that would limit the plant's hours of operation.

DeBaugh also said he would set aside 8 of his 28 acres as open land, and would slightly reduce the hours that his business would operate.

Bills under consideration tomorrow include:

Allowing the Department of Public Works to charge fees for marking utility lines.

Stripping developers' rights to collect "foot-front" fees from homeowners if they don't annually notify and bill those residents.

Providing special zoning districts for bed-and-breakfast homes and inns.

Amending the qualifications for civilian fire inspectors.

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