ANNAPOLIS – The Maryland Court of Special Appeals ruled Wednesday that a Howard County zoning panel and circuit court were wrong giving Browning Ferris Inc. the go-ahead to construct and operate a solid waste transfer and recovery station in Elkridge.
Browning Ferris currently operates only a recycling center on the property.
The case stemmed from objections by a then-neighbor, Meadowridge Industrial Center Limited Partnership, which has since sold the business park it owned north of the Browning Ferris site.
Representatives of the new party, Westmark Advisors of Los Angeles, Calif., could not be reached for comment.
Meadowridge’s lawyers argued that Howard County had not complied with a state law governing the establishment of its solid waste management plan.
The company said that although the county council held a public hearing when its plan was introduced, after that hearing, the plan changed significantly.
There was no public notice or hearing on an amendment that “amounted to 180-degree shift in policy upon which interested persons were deprived of the right to comment,” Meadowridge argued.
But the brief from Howard County and Browning Ferris contended that state law “is silent as to whether additional hearings are required.”
The three-judge panel of the appeals court sided with Meadowridge, ruling that “that the failure of Howard County Council to give notice of those changes … invalidates those changes. This invalidity … nullifies the Zoning Board’s approval of BFI’s petition.”
The initial waste management plan said that “a transfer station will be necessary to support waste export and provided that the County will own and operate the transfer station,” according to the court.
However, the court noted that the amendment changed the plan’s language, saying that the county “may,” rather than “will” operate the station. This permitted Browning Ferris to enter the picture.
Court records show that Browning Ferris’s 17.3 acre site would have been designed to accept 2,000 tons per day of solid waste collected in Howard, Anne Arundel, Harford and Baltimore counties and Baltimore City. The waste was to be compacted into 25-ton loads and shipped to landfills in Virginia and West Virginia.
Paul Johnson, deputy county solicitor at the Howard County Office of Law, said that the county council and zoning board needed to be informed on the decision before he could comment.
“We will study the decision and take the appropriate action,” Johnson said. Attorneys for Browning Ferris could not be reached. -30-