The Harford County Circuit Court upheld the decision in Case 5886 to deny the tire pyrolysis operation by Auston Transfer and Processing on 6 acres in Joppa off Route 7.
The property, Auston Transfer, used for shredding and recycling scrap tires requested a new system to incinerate tires within a closed chamber. The property is zoned CI- Commercial Industrial. Planning & Zoning approved the use in this zoning category.
Within the time frame allowed, two Joppa citizens appealed the determination made by the Director and asked that the matter be reviewed by the County’s Hearing Examiner. They were assisted by the People’s Counsel. That decision was appealed because it considered the determination of the Planning and Zoning Director to allow this use in CI, was improper and that the pyrolysis system belonged in GI-General Industrial zoning.
As of this decision, the Hearing Examiner, County Council and now the Circuit Court all agree that the Director of Planning & Zoning overreached his authority and made a “legal error” in deciding to allow this use in CI.
In addition, the Circuit Court added that material and information which is not in the Zoning Code itself, should be made available to the public. In this case it was the Industrial Codes used by the Department of Planning & Zoning.
Why is this relevant?
Friends of Harford is sharing news of this decision because it is an example of how the system is supposed to work. The community had concerns about the potential for negative effects to the environment and of the proximity of the tire burning near their homes. At each level, the facts were brought to light and the decision was made not to allow this type of facility in a Commercial Industrial Zoning. Had the tire pyrolysis plant been allowed in CI, it would have set precedent for future types of facilities in CI zoning.
Friends of Harford- Why we asked the Candidates these questions:
Unless you’ve been personally affected by a County land use decision, you may be wondering why we asked these particular questions of local candidates. The following links provide reasons for the questions asked.
Have you registered and reviewed the candidates for the 2018 GUBERNATORIAL PRIMARY?
Land use decisions are made locally. In anticipation of the upcoming election, Friends of Harford asked Harford County Candidates for County Executive and County Council questions about land use issues.
Friends of Harford, Inc focuses on Harford’s land use issues, working for a fair balance between the rights of those wanting to develop a property and the rights of neighbors who might be impacted by that development.
Land use is controlled by the County Executive and County Council members. In anticipation of the upcoming election, Friends of Harford asks candidates to please respond to the posted questions so we may understand your perspectives and reasoning on these issues.
We will post your responses on our website and notify our members that they are available.
Responses are due back by April 15, 2018.
Thank you for your cooperation and assistance in keeping Harford County citizens aware and informed of your goals and objectives.
The Zoning Code tells us what we may do with our property. Build a house? 7 houses? A restaurant? A gas station? We read the code to find out what uses are automatically permitted, but there are exceptions to the rule. If the code shows a use as a special exception, it may be approved with certain extra conditions to protect the neighbors, or it may not be approved at all. That use must also be compatible with what is already allowed in the neighborhood.
A Special Exception is unique in that neighbors can object to the proposed site plan during a required, formal hearing. The public may be represented for free if the People’s Counsel agrees to represent the interests of the public.
The overriding rule for a Special Exception is if it causes too much harm to the neighbors, and changing the site plan won’t stop the harm, it should not be approved.
In all there are 10 requirements** for approval of a Special Exception. So for example, the code states one may build a sawmill in CI (Commercial Industrial) or GI (General Industrial) zoned properties, but one must ask for a Special Exception for a sawmill on an AG (Agricultural) zoned property.
A Hearing Examiner decides whether the request is approved or denied for that plan at that particular location. The decision may be appealed to the County Council which sits as the Board of Appeals.
** Special Exceptions consider the effects of the proposed site plan on: the number of people living or working in the area; traffic conditions; orderly growth of the neighborhood and any fiscal impact the County may have because of the approval; the effect of odors, gas, smoke, fumes, vibration, glare and noise on the surrounding properties; if there is adequate police, fire, water, sewer or garbage services; if the development is consistent with good planning; any harm to existing structures nearby such as churches, schools, etc.; environmental impact or opportunities for recreation or harm to sensitive land; the preservation of cultural and historic buildings or places.
Two things determine what can happen on a property: the zoning of the property and the Zoning Code. The Zoning Code changes frequently, but the ongoing Comprehensive Zoning Review (CZR) is most citizens’ ONLY chance to influence zoning.
Here is the LIST OF PROPERTIES that have requested a change in zoning, what each will likely be given unless the public objects (column heading “Bill 17-015”) and what FOH recommends (FOH column). A summary of the properties we’re most concerned about is HERE.
We urge you to speak up for the zoning you feel is right. Either speak up at the County Council’s final public hearing on Monday October 2 (Aberdeen HS at 6:30pm) or Thursday October 5 (Bel Air HS at 6:30pm). You’ll have up to 3 minutes and need to arrive early to sign up to speak.
As always, we also urge you to email your opinion to the County Council.
Officially it is “any specially mapped district which is subject to supplementary regulations or requirements for development”. Every parcel of land in the County is zoned. An overlay sits on top of that zoning and modifies the normal usage allowed for every property which lies “under” the overlay. Overlays may restrict or enhance development. Restrictive overlay examples are the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area and the Floodplain district overlays.
Because the land beneath the overlay is fragile, certain types of development are not allowed even though the County has approved zoning for more intense development. Many of our restrictive overlays are handed down by State legislation. The past several years has seen the growth of development enhancing overlay legislation. A good example is the Edgewood Neighborhood Overlay District. Zoning restrictions are relaxed in this region with the hope of spurring the revitalization of commerce, residential neighborhoods and civic pride. Rather than rezoning large districts and changing every zoning regulation to reflect the desired new use, an overlay easily enacts the change in allowed uses by a single act of legislation.
The ease with which an overlay may happen should make us stop and think. An overlay may not always be a good idea. Several years ago, an overlay was proposed that would allow industrial use on agriculturally zoned land. Quite a change in zoning. While the underlying zoning remains unchanged, the over-the-top overlay may cause significant change.