The Anne Arundel County Council banned new rubble landfills throughout the county at its meeting Monday night, dismissing warnings from the county attorney that the measure could be challenged in court.
The bill, which started as a ban on rubble landfills in residential areas but was amended to include the entire county, passed by a 7-0 vote in Annapolis. The ban would go into effect Jan. 1.
Council members voted for the ban over the objections of the county executive's office and the county attorney. County Attorney David Plymyer described the measure as a property rights issue, and warned that the ban could set the county up for potential lawsuits from two landfill developers who are seeking to open new landfills.
"This is a big decision with potentially significant financial consequences," he said.
Anthony Gorski, an attorney representing a rubble landfill developer, said his client has spent millions of dollars over the years to try to open a landfill off of Route 3.
"To try to take that away is unfair and would result in litigation," said Gorski, who represents Tolson & Associates, which hopes to open a rubble landfill to fill in an old sand and gravel mine at Cunningham Excavating in Crofton.
Councilmen did not debate the bill before their unanimous vote. Councilman Jamie Benoit, who cosponsored the bill with Councilman Chris Trumbauer, said he sponsored the bill because of traditional zoning concerns such as noise and traffic. He said a vote for the ban would effectively be a statement that the council prefers the government to operate landfills.
"There isn't currently demand for rubble landfill services that can't be handled by the county's own publicly-owned landfill in Millersville," said Benoit, a Crownsville Democrat.
Tolson is one of two developers in west county seeking approvals for rubble landfills, which would accept construction and demolition debris. The rubble landfills would not accept household trash or hazardous waste.
West county residents have been fighting the rubble landfills for decades, raising concerns about the traffic, dust and noise the landfills would generate. They also have noted that the landfills earned their zoning approvals in the early 1990s, yet have failed to get their landfills open.
Kelly Bowlus was among a small contingent of Piney Orchard residents who urged council members to support the ban. "I walk the trails, it's a great family environment," she said. "We don't want, nor do we need, a landfill within five miles of our community."
The Cunningham Excavating property off of Route 3 already has a closed landfill on the site, and the new rubble landfill is close to obtaining a key state permit, Gorski said.
A few miles away in a rural area of south Odenton, National Waste Managers, a subsidiary of Silver Spring-based Halle Cos., has tried to open the Chesapeake Terrace landfill. Neighbors have been fighting the project in legal and zoning battles since the 1980s.
The Chesapeake Terrace landfill has yet to receive state environmental approval and its zoning approval is tied up in court, after Anne Arundel's Board of Appeals refused to grant the company a time extension to use the zoning approval.
Halle officials, who rarely speak publicly about the Chesapeake Terrace project, have not returned phone calls and did not testify before the council.