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Carroll County commissioners will consider $13 million land purchase to expand Northern Landfill

A garbage truck pull into the Carroll County Northern Landfill along Md. 140 in Westminster Wednesday, July 24, 2013.
A garbage truck pull into the Carroll County Northern Landfill along Md. 140 in Westminster Wednesday, July 24, 2013. (DYLAN SLAGLE/STAFF PHOTO, Carroll County Times)

Carroll County is looking to spend $13 million on a portion of land to help expand the Northern Landfill but a former county employee expressed concerns with the process not being transparent.

In order to protect and preserve the opportunity to expand the Northern Landfill, the county has expressed interest in purchasing property adjacent to the existing facility. Under the Board of Commissioners direction, negotiations with K&P Resource Recovery have resulted in a contract for the purchase of nearly 327 acres for more than $13 million, according to a briefing paper from the county’s department of economic development.

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Commissioners could vote on whether to approve or deny the move during their regular business meeting Thursday morning.

While every county is responsible for getting rid of its garbage, Carroll has been exploring how to handle solid waste options for many years. Since the late 1990s, the county has been paying to have a majority of its waste hauled to Pennsylvania and elsewhere, only burying a portion in the current landfill, to extend its limited life span.

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Cliff Engle, bureau chief of solid waste, said the county spends between $4 million and $5 million a year transferring about 90,000 tons of trash. If the county put all of its trash in the landfill instead of hauling it out, he said the Northern Landfill would be sustainable for only 12 more years.

“The last thing we want is to fill the landfill and not have any other option,” he said.

Neil Ridgely, a community activist who also served as the county government’s zoning administrator and sustainability coordinator from 2003 to 2010, said this week the purchase of the parcel could raise concerns among residents.

“Half of the property lies within full view of Md. 140,” he said, and the backside is “environmentally challenging” as it leads up to the north branch of the Patapsco River. He added the property is adjacent to Reese Road, where a number of residents live.

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Last year, the planning and zoning commission met to consider requests by property owners to rezone their land as part of the county’s master plan for future growth. The requests voted upon were for properties seeking to become zoned commercial, industrial, or employment campus.

K&P Resource Recovery, LLC, the owners of several parcels accessed by Reese Road, requested their land be rezoned from agriculture and conservation to industrial light at that meeting but the planning board did not recommend the county rezone it after many callers described as a windy, country road that would not be suited to increased traffic brought about by new development.

Ridgely said there are other options for getting rid of solid waste.

“It’s a shame the plan might be to just continue landfilling,” he said. “Landfilling leads to more landfilling and when you run out of ground, you have to find a new place.”

He noted he hasn’t seen any public discussion on the matter and was confused when the land purchase showed up on the commissioners’ weekly agenda. He said he was concerned most of the discussions regarding the purchase of the landfill occurred behind closed doors.

According to the county spokesperson, the county gives the required notice, a “Notice of Intent to Purchase Land,” on their website at least 15 calendar days prior to any potential decisions. The information on the Northern landfill addition was posted on June 30.

Commissioner Dennis Frazier, R-District 3, said the land the county is looking to purchase has been appraised but the county negotiated with the property owners to come up with the final price. He noted the current landfill won’t be sustainable forever.

“We need to plan for that,” Frazier said.

The commissioner said the property is not being rezoned, so if commissioners did decide to move forward with the purchase, there would be no additional traffic and neighborhoods would not be impacted.

Messages left for Jack Lyburn, the county’s director of economic development who will present the proposal to purchase the land on Thursday, were not returned.

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