Many Crofton residents and activists celebrated on Labor Day weekend when the community won a years-long battle to prevent The Enclave, a proposed community of about 80 townhomes, from rising along a wetland that parallels Route 3 North at the suburb’s iconic brick gates.
Now, there are new concerns about what could rise at the National Waste Rubble Landfill site on Conway Road.
On Sept. 10 at Crofton’s Nantucket Elementary School, the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) Solid Waste Division again presented plans for expansion of a rock crushing operation at the Tolson & Associates landfill, which is located on Route 3 South, at Capitol Raceway Road.
Tolson, the MDE and Anne Arundel County are in the latter phases of public meetings regarding the approvals, and the outlook isn’t good for the locals.
In addition to concerns about pollution, noise and more traffic along very congested Route 3, frustration and anger about the lack of transparency during the years-long proceedings have the community bubbling.
The proposed expansion would “vertically and laterally expand the existing landfill closer to homes in Four Seasons and Piney Orchard, and add more trucks to Route 3,” said Karla Schaffer, a board member of the community organization Crofton First, which is “working to obtain a copy of a presentation given by Geosyntec Consultants,” the engineers hired by Clarksburg-based Tolson.
The refuse disposal permit application is available at the Crofton Library, she said, “but we have requested that the MDE add documents to its website to increase accessibilty. A public hearing will be held and we’ll promote that date as soon as we have it.
“The tough thing here,” she said, “is that the special exception for the expansion was granted in 1993 but Tolson is allowed to expand under those rules since that was approved by the previous county administration (under former County Executive Steve Schuh) even with the considerable development in the area.”
The main concern of the residents is that Tolson would be within about 300 feet of the GORC Park in Piney Orchard as well as part of Four Seasons. “From the naked eye on the new chart,” Schaefer said, “[those areas] seem twice as close as they are now.”
Concerning the number of trucks rumbling up and down Route 3, “I asked how many more there would be,” said Schaffer, “and Mike Ensor (Tolson senior vice president) said there are already 20 rubble trucks, and 50 sand and gravel, on a given day.”
James Kitchin, Anne Arundel County co-director for community and constituent services for District 7, called the recent meeting “well attended and somewhat heated. I saw a lot of frustration that I think stems from the residents advocating for themselves within a system that isn’t designed to look at the overall impacts of these permitting decisions on their communities.”
The process is so fragmented, Kitchin said, “that it’s pretty easy for a company to check all the individual boxes required to get a permit. However, no one at the MDE is charged with making sure that the overall result makes sense.”
Anne Arundel County Councilman Andrew Pruski (D-District 4) noted that the landfill “was initially approved a week before I took office” in 2014 – and “basically at the 11th hour, which caught the residents off guard during the holidays,” said Dave Helmecki, Pruski’s legislative assistant.
Also noting the more recent Tolson application for a concrete crushing operation on the property, Pruski said “I’m honestly frustrated with the state, particularly the MDE.”
He said, “First, [MDE holds] a meeting at a site across from a major divided highway, outside the community near the applicable site; second, [it held] a meeting on numerous back to school nights, which prevents public participation; third, there [has been] no extended outreach to local government officials to schedule the meeting so the public can participate; fourth, I see no collaboration between state agencies to address the traffic on Route 3, which is already horrible, related to this application, and [it] will add even more trucks if this application is approved.”
The councilman added, “The citizens deserve better. Our government is here to serve and should be transparent by working to involve the public, not the opposite.”
When asked what he would tell local residents about their heightened frustration about the proposed projects, Ensor said Tolson was “concerned.”
Ensor said, “Currently, Tolson & Associates is operating a construction and demolition rubble landfill, a sand and gravel mining operation, a natural wood waste mulching operation, a soils blending operation and a tier one compost facility operation. We share all our neighbors concerns and strive to operate as a great neighbor.”
When asked how many trucks a day use the landfill now, as well as how many more trucks the expansion would result in, Ensor said, “Currently, all [of] Tolson’s operations receive on average 40-100 trucks per day.”
While Pruski said there will be a full public meeting about the landfill expansion at a future date, some observers wonder how much good it will do.
“I don’t know if we can stop this,” said Schaffer.
Kitchin thought “one of the most telling parts” of the Sept. 10 meeting “was when the representative from MDE admitted that no one there is looking at the cumulative environmental impacts from the multiple activities that different offices, all within MDE, have permitted to take place on the same site,” he said. “It’s easy to see how the residents [are] frustrated.”
Heather Bagnall concurred. “We need to figure out how the state can do a full evaluation” in such situations, said the state delegate from District 33. “We can’t keep doing this piecemeal.”
Ultimately, Kitchin feels the issue will continue to play out “within a very flawed process that isn’t designed to take the communities’ concerns into account.
“I really hope “ he said, “that part of where things are headed will include the county working with our partners at the state level to establish some sort of authority that can look at the cumulative effects of everything going on at these types of sites.”