Despite opposition from community groups, the proposed Honeygo rubble landfill and reclamation center passed a major hurdle this week when the Baltimore County zoning commissioner approved its development plan and granted it two special exceptions.
Neighborhood organizations fought the proposal in hearings before Zoning Commissioner Lawrence E. Schmidt, but it had the backing of County Executive Roger B. Hayden and public works officials, who say the county badly needs a rubble landfill.
The Honeygo operation near White Marsh -- designed primarily for construction and demolition debris -- is already part of the county's revised 10-year Solid Waste Plan.
Mr. Schmidt, in an opinion released Monday, conditioned his approval on the developer's installing a liner in the three cells that would be used to deposit rubble. Opponents claimed that as a victory, although they were generally disappointed that the project was approved.
"We're pleased that the zoning commissioner, by requiring the use of a liner, recognized the environmental dangers raised by the community," said J. Carroll Holzer, the attorney who represented community residents at the hearing.
Mr. Holzer said the community hopes that the state, which is reviewing its rules, or Mr. Schmidt ultimately will require a liner made of synthetic material in addition to compacted dirt.
The 64-acre Honeygo site lies between Interstate 95 and Old Philadelphia Road, north of Silver Spring Road. Honeygo Run, a tributary of the environmentally troubled Bird River, flows just north of the site.
The project would include a recycling operation to handle "white goods" such as stoves and refrigerators, grind up and reprocess asphalt and concrete, and turn tree stumps into mulch. What can't be recycled would be buried.
The developers, Wayne Knight and Charles Volpe, president and vice president of Honeygo Run Reclamation Center Inc., must now obtain a variety of state permits, which could take as long as four years, according to testimony.
John B. Gontrum, attorney for the developers, said they were pleased with the decision.
"They have no problems with the conditions imposed by the zoning commissioner," Mr. Gontrum said. "They have put a lot into this project and are determined to operate a model landfill."
The decision also requires the developers to:
* Reclaim the site once all three cells are filled and transfer the property to the county Department of Recreation and Parks for use as open space and athletic fields.
* Restore Honeygo Run as part of the county's efforts to revive the Bird River watershed.
* Pay for an independent inspector to monitor the operation periodically. The monitoring would be directed by a citizens' advisory committee formed by the developers.
Although they were pleased by the conditions, residents were still unhappy with the overall decision.
"It doesn't make sense, with the county spending money to revitalize the Bird River watershed and work on a planned residential development for the Honeygo area, to allow this project to go forward," said Adam Paul, president of the White Marsh Civic Association.
Mr. Paul said the six-day hearing dried up the community's legal funds and that it is unlikely the groups will appeal to the county Board of Appeals.