Landfill foes' appeal on hold pending state decision


Prolonging the long-fought debate about a rubble landfill in Gambrills for at least a year, the county Board of Appeals has postponed a hearing on an appeal of a zoning variance, pending an appeal of the state's denial of a landfill application.

The board agreed Wednesday night to the year delay so James E. Cunningham, owner of Cunningham Excavating and Cunningham Asphalt, can focus on his appeal filed yesterday with the Maryland Department of the Environment.

"I think it ended up being something, in my mind, that everyone agreed to because it was a conservation of resources, and the focus right now is on the MDE permit appeal," said Anthony G. Gorski, Cunningham's attorney.

Cunningham needs the state permit and the county's special exception to zoning regulations to construct the landfill. The state denied the application for the landfill permit Sept. 11 based on the business' past violations of Maryland environmental laws and residents' concerns about having a landfill near their neighborhood.

About a year ago, residents along Evergreen Road filed an appeal of the county's decision to grant Cunningham a zoning variance for the proposed landfill near Capitol Raceway. The variance, which expired in January, allowed Cunningham additional time for planning and approval of the landfill on top of the two-year time limit, which expired in January 1999, of the county's special exception to allow the landfill.

Cunningham, who first applied in 1993 to the state for permits to open another landfill near his now-closed landfill, has said he needed additional time because MDE delayed his permit. However, the residents have argued that Cunningham should not get an extension because he caused the delays.

An application for another variance of the zoning regulation, which would expire in January 2001, is pending, Gorski said.

The Gambrills residents did not dispute the arguments for the postponement of the appeal hearing.

"Their goal is to not have this operator have a landfill in their back yard," said E. Benjamin Alliker, attorney for the residents. "I think this is a furtherance of that goal. ... It's another year [without a landfill]."

Norman Harvey, one of the residents who filed the appeal, said the plan for the landfill is outdated and poses a threat to the public's health and safety.

"We'll continue to be opposed to any variance and extension in the future," he said. The landfill "is not good for citizens of Evergreen Road or citizens at large."

Elise G. Rand, a member of the Greater Gambrills Citizens Pollution Task Force, said the community wants to consider alternative uses for the proposed site.

"Any action that prevents this landfill from moving forward is good for us," she said.

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