Quiet as a transfer station; Anne Arundel: Approval of a garbage-sorting facility shouldn't occur with so little public notice.


RESIDENTS DESERVE fair warning before government places an operation as potentially intrusive as a trash transfer station near them.

Large trucks haul garbage to these transfer facilities, where workers separate recyclables and reload waste for shipment to landfills. Northern Anne Arundel residents for months have been living a mile from a transfer station without knowing it.

In this case, ignorance wasn't bliss. Residents deserved a chance to evaluate and discuss the facility, owned by Millersville businessman William K. Blanchet, even if it apparently was just far enough away not to disturb them.

Area activists and environmentalists knew nothing of the station, in spite of its sensitive location on Curtis Creek. First-term Councilwoman Pamela G. Beidle didn't know the operation was in her district until she read a newspaper article about it. The transfer station was discussed when the county drew up a solid waste management plan two years ago, but its approval did not register with the public.

It came to light only recently with reports that former County Executive John G. Gary's staff approved the station as part of a deal in which the county paid $35,000 for 40 acres along Curtis Creek valued at $500,000. Questions about that purchase linger -- how did the county get the land so cheap, and what was the intended purpose? -- but the stealthy placement of the transfer station also raises eyebrows.

Ms. Beidle is right when she says the county must make a better effort to ensure the public is aware of such projects. She is looking into legislation to accomplish just that.

The county may have done what was legally required in this instance, but it shouldn't dump unpleasant surprises on unwitting communities. That's a big enough problem when private parties are involved. It's particularly irksome when supposedly representative government is involved.

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