The county zoning board voted last night to allow development of a waste-transfer station in Elkridge that would be the first trash-handling facility since the landfill in Marriottsville opened 13 years ago.
"This is dealing with a very serious need within the county," said County Councilwoman Shane Pendergrass, a Democrat who represents the area. "The good thing is there is no residential development abutting this at this time."
County Council members, sitting as the zoning board, voted 4-0 to apply a new solid waste zoning designation to 17 acres, on Cemetery Lane off of U.S. 1, owned by Houston-based Browning-Ferris Industries. The international waste management corporation already operates a recycling plant on the site.
The rezoning, when it is written and signed in the next several weeks, will allow BFI to operate a 21,000-square-foot building in which garbage trucks dump their loads to be compacted into 25-ton tractor-trailer loads for shipment to landfills or incinerators outside the Baltimore area. The facility will handle 2,000 tons of trash a day from around the Baltimore area.
"We're happy. It's a fair decision," said John L. Lininger, BFI's Baltimore-area marketing manager.
"I think we tried to cover all the details, protect the neighborhood, protect the environment and offer a service that the county government has said that they need in their solid waste plan," Mr. Lininger said.
"It will be a facility that the county could use without expending vitally needed capital, if the county so chose," he added.
The decision did not please some Elkridge residents, who testified that they feared it would exacerbate U.S. 1 traffic problems and bring odors, litter and noise to the area.
"I don't feel like the citizens had any impact at all. I heard nothing but what the attorneys were talking about," said Ron Tilkins, a director of the Elkridge Community Association.
The BFI facility is mentioned in the county's 10-year solid waste plan as a possible conduit for shipping waste out of the area. The plan calls for shipping waste for about three years until the county can join in a regional waste management plan with other Baltimore-area jurisdictions.
The county could still build its own facility, but Howard officials, including County Executive Charles I. Ecker, have said they prefer to privatize waste management whenever possible.
Ms. Pendergrass, who was urged to refrain from voting on the case by Mr. Tilkins and others, voted for the rezoning. Mr. Tilkins and others charged that Ms. Pendergrass' campaign for state delegate in District 13A -- which includes the transfer station -- was supported by a BFI representative.
"It would be really easy to not vote on this case," Ms. Pendergrass said. She said she would not shirk the responsibility of helping to find ways to deal with the county's waste problem.
Absent from the meeting was Councilman Darrel Drown, a Republican who is running for re-election in a new district that includes most of Elkridge, but not the BFI site.
Mr. Drown will have a chance to register his position when he decides whether to sign the zoning decision.
During three days of hearings on the rezoning, BFI representatives explained that the site is meant to serve the company's share of the 8,000-ton-a-day Baltimore area waste market. Most of the waste trucked from the facility would go to a regional landfill in Morgantown in southeastern Pennsylvania or another facility in King and Queen County in eastern central Virginia.