Second composting facility proposed in Dayton

Representatives from a local contracting company came to Clarksville Thursday night to pitch the second of two proposals to place composting facilities on preserved agricultural land in the county.

Howard County-based RLO Contractors hopes to move its wood mulching and composting operations from a current site on Cemetery Road in Elkridge to two new locations -- one in Sykesville and one in Dayton. 

Neighbors of the Dayton site echoed many of the same concerns raised by Sykesville residents at a similar meeting last month. They said they worried about noise, traffic congestion from trucks entering and leaving the facility, water contamination from dyes used in the mulching process and deterioration of their property values as a result of those conditions. 

But RLO President Bob Orndorff said he planned to be a good neighbor. 

"It's a nice, beautiful piece of property in our community, and I want it to remain that way," Orndorff told the 40 community members who attended the meeting. 

The Dayton plot, at 150 acres, is larger than the one in Lisbon, which is 90 acres. RLO representatives said they planned to run mulching and topsoil operations on three acres of the Dayton land and composting operations on 13 acres. The rest of the land would be farmed. 

Mulching and composting operations are required to have a setback of at least 500 feet, according to RLO representatives. They said the closest neighbor would be 630 feet away. 

RLO will have to obtain county approval for the project before proceeding. While both plots of land are part of Howard's agricultural preservation easement program, an expansion of the conditional uses for agricultural easement properties during last summer's comprehensive zoning process added several new options for the  property, including composting, farm wineries and spring and well bottling operations. 

The two community pre-submission meetings were the first step. Next, RLO will have to complete traffic and environmental studies and submit them, along with a conditional use application, to the county. The Department of Planning and Zoning will study the request and make recommendations, and a final ruling will be decided by the county's hearing examiner, a lawyer appointed by the County Council to hear land-use matters. 

Neighbor Gary Goad, who lives in nearby The Oaks at Bridle Creek, said he had recently bought a porch that looks out over the fields of the Dayton plot, where soybean and alfalfa crops currently grow. 

"We just bought a porch so we could sit out and look at five trucks an hour go by," he said, in reference to Orndorff's estimate that about 25 to 50 trucks, or as many as five an hour over the course of a 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. work day, could enter and exit the site. 

Orndorff said he plans to use a driveway connecting to Green Bridge Road, rather than Howard Road, because Howard Road is not designated as a "major collector road," while Green Bridge Road is. 

Some neighbors were not convinced that Green Bridge Road could handle the traffic.

But a handful of residents said Orndorff's proposal for a composting and mulching facility would improve the area, which they said had previously been a game farm and had lately become run down and a popular party spot for local teens. 

"I'm excited for him to come to this property," Leslie Bauer, whose property abuts the site of the proposed composting facility, said. "I think it's going to be a win-win." Bauer is working with Orndorff to pave an access driveway for the site from Green Bridge Road through her property.

Orndorff said he would work with the community to design landscaping that would shield some of the operations from view. 

RLO representatives said they thought they would have a traffic study done sometime in February, at which point they would be able to move forward with the application for a conditional use. 

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