Vote keeps residents, recycler at odds

Board's rezoning could allow firm to stay

September 09, 2005|By Phillip McGowan | Phillip McGowan,SUN STAFF

Pasadena residents who lived near a wood-recycling business thought they had found middle ground in 1999. They agreed to pull their lawsuit that sought to close A-A Recycle & Sand, and the Anne Arundel County Council passed a measure requiring that the plant be relocated within three years.

But A-A Recycle's owner, William H. DeBaugh Jr., didn't follow the law. The county didn't enforce the law. And this week, the County Council reversed itself, approving a zoning change that could let DeBaugh's business operate legally.

County Council Chairman Ronald C. Dillon Jr., a Republican who represents the Pasadena area and has strongly supported keeping A-A Recycle in business, says middle ground can still be found - even after the council voted 6-1 to approve a comprehensive zoning package for the Pasadena/Marley Neck area that includes changing the zoning of A-A Recycle from commercial to industrial usage, forcing the recycler to seek an exception to stay in business.

Acknowledging more than a decade of criticism about noise, dust and smell from A-A Recycle's operation on Baltimore Annapolis Boulevard, Dillon has worked to broker an agreement since late July between the residents and DeBaugh to limit the recycler's hours of operation and provide an additional buffer between the business and the residents.

But a deal hasn't been struck. Moments before Tuesday's vote, representatives for both sides said they were optimistic an agreement would be reached, but some council members weren't so sure, considering DeBaugh defied county law for three years.

C. Edward Middlebrooks, a Severn Republican, worried at the council meeting that "if a deal is not wrapped up, and wrapped up within the next couple of weeks," talks would break down. If that happened, he said he would do everything in his power "to make [DeBaugh] pay."

"I feel sorry for the people who are living there," Middlebrooks said of Selby Grove residents.

Dillon again said he was confident that the sides would reach an accord. With the zoning change, DeBaugh must earn a special exception from the county to continue operating, and that requires going through a public hearing process. The council chairman has said the requirements of an agreement would "far exceed" the requirements of the special exception, clearing the way for the recycler to stay in business.

G. Macy Nelson, an attorney who represents the community, said yesterday of the negotiations: "We are making headway. I'm optimistic." But he declined to elaborate on the process.

"There are a lot of detailed issues," he said. "We are looking for a commitment they will honor."

Dillon has said an agreement would limit DeBaugh to operating weekdays and would require a landscaping buffer along the property to reduce noise and dust. DeBaugh has said he would set aside 8 of his 28 acres.

The sides are scheduled to meet again next week.

Charles R. Schaller Jr., an attorney representing DeBaugh, told the council Tuesday: "We are absolutely hopeful" of reaching an agreement. "I think we're on the same page - we are close to getting this done."

But County Councilwoman Barbara D. Samorajczyk said that "hopeful" wasn't good enough. Noting that an agreement wasn't in place at the time of the final vote on the zoning package, the Annapolis-area Democrat proposed an amendment to kill the zoning upgrade for A-A Recycle.

The council rejected Samorajczyk's amendment on A-A Recycle, 5-2. In a rare move, Councilman Bill D. Burlison, an Odenton Democrat, went against County Executive Janet S. Owens' recommendation and voted with Samorajczyk.

Two other amendments Samorajczyk proposed, seeking to halt the encroachment of commercial property along Baltimore Annapolis Boulevard, also were defeated.

Passage of any of the amendments would have delayed a final vote beyond the deadline for consideration, effectively killing the package. County planners and community interests spent years redrawing zoning lines, and several of Samorajczyk's colleagues said they were unwilling to throw out the package because of a continued debate surrounding one property.

The debate over A-A Recycle has been especially emotional for Councilwoman Pamela G. Beidle, a Linthicum Democrat. She, along with Samorajczyk, supported the 1999 bill to halt DeBaugh's operation. It was sponsored by then-Councilwoman A. Shirley Murphy, a Democrat, but Murphy was defeated by Dillon in 2002.

Beidle paused before siding against Samorajczyk's amendment on A-A Recycle. She explained her vote Tuesday night, saying she gave Dillon's position special weight, considering the changes affect his district.

"We are not elected countywide," she said. "We are elected district by district."

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