Amendments would limit rezoning plan

But changes to Pasadena proposal not likely to pass council

September 04, 2005|By Phillip McGowan | Phillip McGowan,SUN STAFF

Her efforts will likely be in vain, but this week an Anne Arundel County councilwoman will seek to introduce as many as three amendments to limit commercial and industrial expansion along a portion of Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard in Pasadena.

Passage of any amendment introduced by Councilwoman Barbara D. Samorajczyk, an Annapolis-area Democrat, would effectively kill the proposed zoning package for the Pasadena/Marley Neck area and delay the schedule for completing a comprehensive countywide zoning initiative that began eight years ago.

The council is expected to reject the amendments and approve the zoning changes for Pasadena/Marley Neck, including one that would allow a wood-recycling plant to operate legally.

Samorajczyk said she would propose an amendment that would deny upgrading A-A Recycle & Sand's zoning from commercial to industrial if the nearby community of Selby Grove and the plant's owner, William H. DeBaugh Jr., do not reach an agreement by Tuesday's council meeting on when and how the business may operate.

Council members tend to vote the way of colleagues whose districts are affected by zoning changes, and County Council Chairman Ronald C. Dillon Jr., a Republican from the Pasadena area, strongly supports the zoning change for A-A Recycle.

Samorajczyk acknowledged that the rezoning package is likely to pass, but she said she was determined to fight the proposal that she said would degrade the quality of life of nearby residents.

"I do like to give deference to my colleagues and seek their input," she said. "But once you get the facts, you make your own decisions."

Dillon said that the two sides are close to an agreement that would limit the plant to operating only on weekdays. An accord, he said, also would require DeBaugh to add a landscaping buffer along the back of his property to reduce noise.

A thick stand of trees rests between DeBaugh's operation and the Selby Grove community. Residents have complained about noise and odors from the tree mulching, but DeBaugh and his supporters contend that the noise from the area also comes from other businesses along Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard, including three auto parts and repair businesses, a landscaping company that regularly uses bulldozers, and a storage facility for cars, trucks, boats and trailers.

Residents contend that DeBaugh's business, which opened in 1990, has never been in zoning compliance. They point to a bill passed in 1999 by the County Council and signed by County Executive Janet S. Owens that required DeBaugh to relocate A-A Recycle within three years.

As part of that bill, Samorajczyk said that the local community agreed to withdraw a lawsuit to shut down DeBaugh's business. She criticized the Owens administration for not enforcing the bill.

"When the government reaches an agreement and the community withdraws a lawsuit based on that agreement, it's the government's responsibility to follow through," she said. "A contract's a deal, and a deal is a deal."

DeBaugh says that the ruling amounted to "spot zoning," which is considered illegal, and he kept his plant open after 2002.

Then-Councilwoman A. Shirley Murphy, a Democrat who represented the Pasadena area, led the fight to shut down A-A Recycle. Dillon, who defeated Murphy in 2002, has strongly supported the zoning change for A-A, noting the environmental benefits of recycling and the demand by homeowners, builders and contractors for such services.

The council chairman, who has received $920 in campaign contributions from DeBaugh and his company since 2003, said that some of the criticism has been unfair.

"Many people are supportive of this business," said Dillon, who stressed that the campaign contributions have not influenced his position.

An administrator for the Maryland Department of the Environment wrote to county Planning Director Joseph W. Rutter Jr. in July that the state agency "considers natural wood waste recycling to be a valuable practice that conserves landfill space and recycles materials in a manner that is protective of the environment."

The letter, written by Edward M. Dexter, administrator for MDE's solid waste program, said that A-A Recycle is regularly inspected by the agency and has been found in compliance.

An agreement between Selby Grove residents and DeBaugh won't be reached before Tuesday, but both sides maintain a strong interest in striking a deal, said Dillon.

If DeBaugh receives his zoning approval, he would still be required to seek a special exception through the county to operate. Dillon said that a contract with the community "far exceeds what the special exception requires."

Owens, who has been largely quiet on the subject, said she supports the rezoning request of A-A Recycle because Dillon's ascent to the council seat reflects a change in community sentiment.

She said an approved amendment to the bill to ensure a 300- foot buffer around DeBaugh's property was the "best compromise I could make."

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