Recycling plant talks go on

County Councilman Dillon keeps both sides calm, 3 months after board promised a deal between residents and owner

December 09, 2005|By PHILLIP MCGOWAN | PHILLIP MCGOWAN,SUN REPORTER

When Alexis Loo spoke this week before the Anne Arundel County Council, her frustration was palpable. It had been three months since the council rezoned a wood-waste recycling plant for industrial use, and a promised agreement with the business owner to restrict his operations has yet to be struck.

Loo, president of a Pasadena community association, said she was worried that a deal would never happen, and that years of residents' complaints about noise, dust and odors emanating from A-A Recycle & Sand would go unaddressed.

But the key figure involved with the proposed covenant agreement, County Councilman Ronald C. Dillon Jr., once again kept the delicate negotiations on track. Dillon spoke privately with Loo after her testimony Monday night and allayed her concerns.

"I feel fairly positive and a whole lot closer to signing the agreement," Loo, president of the Lake Waterford Community Association, said Wednesday.

Dillon has put his reputation on the line to broker a compromise, and he hasn't lost his resolve. Representatives surrounding the proposed covenant said they have their differences, but all agree that Dillon has helped bridge the divide and preserve hope, despite weeks of delays and bickering.

"Ron Dillon has done a wonderful job," William H. DeBaugh Jr., owner of A-A Recycle, said yesterday. "Sometimes I feel sorry for him, because sometimes we leave the meeting room hoping that we've resolved something, but when we come back, it's not."

Both sides said they were close to a deal, as they said in September. Those close to the negotiations said attorneys have been working on terms on four remaining issues: completing a landscaping plan that would require DeBaugh to plant additional trees at the rear of his 28-acre property; establishing meetings between DeBaugh and the community at A-A Recycle; setting terms for future use of the property; and determining which residents would be included in the agreement.

The deal would also limit the use of A-A Recycle's wood grinder to 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, Dillon said.

Both parties have not met regularly in recent weeks. DeBaugh has accused Loo of canceling meetings. Loo said she canceled meetings only because DeBaugh has not presented a counterproposal since early November.

Dillon said that schedule conflicts and illness have also drawn out negotiations, which started in late July. He said the delays might prove beneficial for both parties.

"I think anything that has a long history of bitter feelings, it's not something that will be fixed overnight," Dillon said. "One of the good things about this process is that a plan was not shoved on the community, and it was not shoved on the business owner. Everyone has had plenty of time to reflect."

Dillon added: "Everyone wants to get this done ... [but] I truly want these things to get done right."

Representatives plan to meet at the end of next week.

Since supporting County Executive Janet S. Owens' proposal this summer to rezone A-A Recycle for industrial use - and put the plant into legal compliance - Dillon faced a torrent of criticism from nearby residents, who allege that the recycling business was destroying their quality of life.

While backing the rezoning of DeBaugh's 28 acres, Dillon tried to extend an olive branch to residents by motivating DeBaugh to sign a covenant agreement that would limit when A-A Recycle's wood grinder could run and establish an additional forested buffer.

The council in September approved the county's comprehensive rezoning plan of Pasadena/Marley Neck, which included A-A Recycle, largely on the say of Dillon, who represents the area. Council members generally vote the way of colleagues whose districts are affected by zoning changes.

That vote reversed a 1999 council decision to close A-A Recycle by 2002. DeBaugh did not comply, and the county did not enforce the law. The land had been zoned for commercial and residential use until this fall.

County Councilwoman Pamela G. Beidle, a Linthicum Democrat, voted for the 1999 legislation. She and County Councilman C. Edward Middlebrooks, a Severn Republican, voiced their desire to see an agreement signed before the rezoning measure passed.

DeBaugh must earn a special exception from the county to keep his business open. Dillon said a covenant agreement would help ensure he got one. If DeBaugh doesn't get the exception, he could sell his property to a bidder that could operate loud machinery 24 hours a day, Dillon said.

Beidle said yesterday she has had doubts about DeBaugh's willingness to negotiate, but she has had no doubts about Dillon's determination to strike a deal.

"I'm confident that Mr. Dillon is making his very best effort," Beidle said.

phill.mcgowan@baltsun.com

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