The company proposing a controversial rubble landfill near Havre de Grace has filed a $100 million federal lawsuit against Harford County, claiming that local lawmakers enacted a 1991 ++ measure specifically to stop the project.
The suit, filed this week in U.S. District Court in Baltimore by Maryland Reclamation Associates of Churchville, marks the latest legal maneuver in the four-year battle over the proposed Gravel Hill rubble landfill.
Calling the zoning law and related actions "irrational, arbitrary and abusive," Maryland Reclamation contends that the county unconstitutionally deprived the company of the use of its property.
In a related case, Harford County Circuit Judge Cypert O. Whitfill heard arguments yesterday on the legality of the disputed zoning law.
The law -- which establishes minimum acreage requirements for rubble landfills and buffers for homes, churches and other structures -- was passed as emergency legislation.
A County Council official acknowledged that the bill was enacted as emergency legislation so it would take effect before the granting of a state permit for the 55-acre landfill.
Judge Whitfill gave no indication when he would rule on the legality of the disputed zoning law. While the legal issues are being argued, the judge has prevented the county from applying the zoning law to the Gravel Hill project and he has prevented the company from operating the landfill.
John R. Greiber Jr., an attorney for Maryland Reclamation, said yesterday that the federal suit seeks to recover profits the landfill would have yielded over a 20-year period, or the life of a state permit.
But Ernest A. Crofoot, the attorney for Harford County, said of the $100 million claim for damages: "I think it's a little premature to claim that kind of loss. . . . "There hasn't been a taking" of Maryland Reclamation's property, he said.
Mr. Crofoot said the company could always seek a variance from zoning restrictions.
In court yesterday, the county argued that the zoning law was needed because no restrictions on rubble landfills existed. Such restrictions are a valid way of avoiding conflicts over noise, truck traffic, dust and other nuisances, the county argued.