A proposal by a waste-management company to build a new waste-transfer facility off U.S. 1 has so inflamed the Elkridge community that the ethics of the leaders of a historic church are being called into question.
At issue is the rumor that the 140-year-old Trinity Episcopal Church on U.S. 1 received funds from Browning-Ferris Inc. for a recent rectory renovation.
BFI and church officials say that this is not true and that the story is being promoted by residents who are against the proposal.
The church has agreed to sell the adjacent waste-management company a small parcel of land for $27,000 and to have BFI build it a parking lot -- if the waste-transfer facility is approved by the Howard County Zoning Board.
Church officials say that this is not why they are supporting the project and that they received nothing from BFI to support it.
"I've heard the rumor, and it's a big lie," said Sarah Shannon, Trinity's treasurer and a member of its board of directors. "We are not making any money. And we're not all that crazy about a new facility going back there, but we believe in being good neighbors."
Despite such denials, some residents are reportedly boycotting the church by not visiting on Sundays or not attending church affairs.
The $90,000 renovation of the church rectory three years ago was paid from church funds, not BFI money, said the Rev. John Steiner. He said he first heard the BFI rumor in November.
And it persists -- coming up in recent Zoning Board hearings onthe BFI project.
Steiner said the church will continue ignoring the rumor. "I really don't know what to do to squash it," he said.
BFI has asked the Howard County Council, sitting as the Zoning Board, to approve a 17-acre solid-waste transfer station on Cemetery Lane next to a BFI recycling center. A transfer station consolidates and prepares trash for transport to a landfill.
Hearings on the issue by the county Zoning Board will continue at 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday at the George Howard Building, 3430 Court House Drive in Ellicott City.
Many in Elkridge oppose the project. They say the facility would be out of place in the residential areas and office parks on U.S. 1 and would increase truck traffic along the busy artery.
Opponents also say the station is not needed because in March the county will begin a three-year, $3.6 million contract with USA Waste, which operates a transfer station for residential trash in Anne Arundel County, five miles from the proposed BFI site in Elkridge. The contract marks the first time the county will ship trash outside its borders.
Also in March, residential trash from curbside pickup will no longer be dumped at Alpha Ridge, the county's last open landfill, county officials said.
The county zoning and planning boards approved the BFI project in 1994. But an appeal by owners of a neighboring industrial park reached the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, which ruled in April 1996 that the zoning panel was wrong to give BFI the go-ahead because the county did not properly notify the public of changes in the proposal.
BFI renewed its request last year and asked for approval from the Planning Board, which voted not to make a recommendation to the Zoning Board.
Church and BFI officials said the community caught wind of a legal agreement between them and twisted it to fuel opposition to the BFI proposal.
If the BFI proposal is approved by the county Zoning Board, BFI has an agreement with the church to buy a sliver of church land for $27,000 so BFI can realign Cemetery Lane with Brookdale Drive and install a traffic light. BFI also has agreed to build a parking lot for the church on church property.
The rumor that BFI had paid for the rectory renovations gained attention when David A. Carney, a lead attorney for opponents of the proposal -- at the first of the current round of zoning hearings three weeks ago -- asked Steiner during his testimony in support of BFI if church repairs were paid for by the company.
Steiner answered with a firm no.
As far as an informal community boycott of the church's activities, Trinity members said they can only wait and see who attends their pancake supper Feb. 11.
The church's oyster dinner in November -- around the time the rumor surfaced -- was well attended, members said.
"I would hope the community would separate themselves from this," said Patricia Cullison, the church member who is organizing the pancake supper. "I don't think they should tie us to BFI. We are two separate institutions."
Pub Date: 2/03/97