Landfill heats up group's election

THE BALTIMORE SUN

A flap over a proposed landfill has raised the stakes of the usually low-key Greater Crofton Council elections, which are set for tomorrow.

Council President Torrey C. Jacobsen Jr. is locked in a heated re-election fight because of his support for Halle Cos.' proposal to erect a rubble landfill on 481 acres that the Silver Spring-based company owns near Odenton.

In return for the council's nonbinding support last fall, Halle has offered to build a high school, a community center and a 500-acre park near the landfill and provide up to $750,000 a year to local community associations.

Steve Conyer, president of the Crofton Athletic Council, said he is challenging Jacobsen in large part because of Jacobsen's landfill stance. Some community leaders and groups have come out against Jacobsen's position in recent months.

"He should be voted off," said Scott A. Conwell, who represents a neighborhood association in Crofton. "Whether or not it happens, whether he can bully others, I don't know."

The Greater Crofton Council represents 42 business and community groups from Odenton to Davidsonville. It is a nonpartisan, community activist group and is separate from the Crofton Civic Association, which covers homeowners in the central part of Crofton. However, the association is a nonvoting member of the council.

Jacobsen must garner at least two-thirds of the 34 member votes to gain re-election to his third one-year term. Conyer can be elected with just over 50 percent of the vote. If neither candidate reaches his mark, a runoff will be held next month, Jacobsen said.

David Gray and Phil Rindone are running for council vice president. Candidates for secretary and treasurer are running unopposed.

Jacobsen is confident of his position on the "memorandum of understanding," or MOU, with Halle. Council members voted to support it in September and have had a chance to revisit it a few times, but Jacobsen said that support for the council's position is widespread throughout West County.

"The tide has turned. ... I'm not seeing anyone against [our position on] the landfill," Jacobsen said.

Some West County residents have expressed dismay at signs that popped up in the area last month. They encouraged residents to contact County Executive Janet S. Owens to persuade her to support the landfill, in hopes of getting a new area high school - something many West County residents have long sought. Fliers with similar information were distributed at Crofton Elementary in recent days.

Anne Arundel County schools officials released a statement Friday reiterating that the distribution of private materials at schools is prohibited.

Asked whether he was involved in distributing the fliers, Jacobsen said, "I'm not the only person. ... I may have helped." He added that several people who support the agreement were involved, describing them only as "friends of the MOU."

Conyer said Jacobsen's attacks on Owens and the Anne Arundel County Council - especially with regard to the landfill - hurt the Crofton group's credibility and compromise efforts within West County to garner future services.

Conyer credits Jacobsen with spearheading the movement for a 25,000-square-foot library that the county built in 2002 in Crofton, and with leading a $1 million fund-raising drive to make stadium improvements at Arundel High.

But those efforts get "buried" because of Jacobsen's leadership style, he said.

Conyer said that in building stronger relations with the Crofton Civic Association and the county during his three years as president of the Crofton Athletic Council, his group has gained $230,000 in field improvements. In the past four years, he said, the number of athletic council participants has risen by 35 percent to about 5,500.

"We can get a lot more accomplished working with the county and state government instead of attacking them," said Conyer, 40, a food salesman.

Jacobsen, 44, who is a mortgage loan officer and owner of an insurance business, said that his efforts sparked the construction of a gym and a wing at Crofton Elementary. Council pressure on his watch helped finalize plans for the Odenton Town Center, he said.

"The squeaky wheel gets the grease - that's my line," Jacobsen said, adding that Conyer won't be able to deliver new amenities to the area as he can.

As for the landfill, Jacobsen said he's again looking out for his constituents.

The county and West County community groups, including the council, have fought Halle's efforts to build a landfill for the past 15 years. Jacobsen said he would continue to support those efforts if he thought they would be effective.

The county has lost repeated attempts to block the project, but Halle, still wending its way through red tape, recently approached the Delaware Nation of Anadarko, an Oklahoma-based American Indian tribe, about taking control of the land for $1.4 million a year. Such an arrangement could allow the company to operate a landfill without being subject to county or state laws.

The tribe has applied for a land trust, which is being reviewed by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Jacobsen believes that Halle will get its landfill one way or another. He said that his deal - if the county signed on - would at least give West County something in return.

"The landfill would never be loved, but for the greater good we should accept it on our terms, not theirs," Jacobsen said.

If elected, Conyer said he would seek a full public debate of the memorandum of understanding approved by the council in September.

Said Conyer: "The point that the landfill is coming one way or another - I don't buy that."

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