Task Force to Study Mulching, Composting, and Wood Processing
Minutes (Approved by the Task Force on July 31, 2014)
July 17, 2014
The Task Force to Study Mulching, Composting, and Wood Processing met on July 17, 2014, in the Ellicott Room at the Miller Branch Library, 9421 Frederick Rd, Ellicott City, MD 21042. Council Member Sigaty called the meeting to order at 4:09 p.m. The following Task Force members were present: Sean Harbaugh; Brent Loveless; Richard Goldman; John Tegeris, Ph.D.; Brent Rutley; Jacquie Sentell; Theodore Mariani; Zack Brendel; Robert Ensor; Lynn Moore; Bert Nixon; Jeff Dannis; Cathy Hudson; Kathy Zimmerman; Gary Felton, Ph.D.; Robert Orndorff; and Rick Lober. Also present were Marsha McLaughlin and Cindy Hamilton form the Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning; David Moore from the Howard County Office of Law; and Mary Clay; Karen Knight; Will Fetchko; and Jeff Meyers from the County Council Office.
Council Member Sigaty introduced herself and Council Member Fox and welcomed the members and expressed the hope that the efforts of the Task Force would be collaborative and productive. Council Member Fox asked everyone to introduce him or herself.
After the introductions, Council Members Sigaty and Fox described Council Resolution 74-2014, which created the Task Force. The
Council Members provided background about how the Resolution came to be adopted and what the Council hoped that the Task Force would accomplish. Council Member Fox asked the Task Force to view its charge broadly including reviewing zoning regulations, the County Code, State law and regulations, and covenants. One goal would be to align them to avoid conflict and duplication. Council Member Sigaty asked the Task Force to also review the zoning process, best practices, and sustainability. She encouraged the Task Force to base report on the data and the best available science. The Task Force report should give the Council the information it needs to move forward and make decisions based on fact.
Council Member Fox indicated that another task force was studying fueling stations and that there might be overlap. He indicated that it would be acceptable to include the other task force in this Task Force’s discussions.
Council Member Sigaty reminded the Task Force that it could divide into subgroups and bring in other speakers and consultants.
Council Members Sigaty and Fox described the role of Task Force co-chair and asked for volunteers or nominations. Mr. Goldman indicated he was willing and interested in serving as the co-chair who represents residential interests. Mr. Rutley then nominated Mr. Brendel to be the co-chair who represents agricultural interests. As no one else either volunteered or was nominated, Mr. Goldman and Mr. Brendel were elected by consensus.
The Task Force discussed how it would proceed and what the end product would be. Members brought up the possibility of other officers, but no decision was made. Mr. Goldman asked that future meetings be recorded. Council Member Fox reminded the Task Force that its meetings are open to the public. Council Member Sigaty reminded the Task Force that the Council wants an actionable package that provides the Council with the information it needs to take action. It may be necessary for the Council to interact with the County’s Delegation to the General Assembly. Mr. Fox added that the Task Force must work quickly because of the Delegation’s deadlines.
Council Members Fox and Sigaty left the meeting at 4:50 after indicating that they did not want the Task Force try to reach conclusions it believed the Council might want, but instead to reach independent recommendations.
Ms. McLaughlin briefed the Task Force on what she saw as the key issues. She also sought to help the Task Force understand the difference between natural wood waste (commonly “mulch”) and compost. She described the State’s efforts to place compost into 3 tiers depending on potential hazard. She indicated that the limits are vague on what farmers may do under State law on their own farms or on the farms of cooperating farmers. She suggested that the Task Force should investigate what activities should be allowed on farms and under what conditions. She described the kinds of controls that the State has imposed on natural wood waste processors. The County’s main method of regulating these activities is through zoning, which can control size, type, buffers, hours, etc. Mr. Lober pointed out that the Task Force must be aware of the special limits on farms that are in agricultural preservation programs.
Mr. Moore discussed the extent of the County’s authority related to natural wood waste processing and composting in light of State law and regulation. He emphasized that the main way the County has to address these matters is through zoning.
The Task Force had a lively discussion about the various kinds of products that are commonly considered to be natural wood waste, mulch, or compost and how the State regulates their production and sale. Mr. Dannis described the County’s natural wood waste processing pilot facility and the various kinds of regulations that apply or do not apply because of the project’s governmental status. Ms. Zimmerman indicated that farmers who process natural wood waste may move it among the various properties that they own or rent.
The Task Force discussed whom it might want to invite to future meetings. Mr. Tegeris reminded that Task Force of the need to protect farming operations and to protect the public from the hazards of natural wood waste processing. He wondered whether the Task Force might address other issues important to farmers beyond natural wood waste processing. Mr. Lober noted that the Task Force must distinguish between residents, farmers, and large operators. Mr. Goldman indicated that it is important to support economically viable farms and sustainability.
Mr. Dannis noted that someday the State may impose a zero-waste requirement on the County, so there will be a need to determine the extent of the facilities needed and where they would be sited. He gave some examples of the magnitude of the problem of processing certain kinds of organic waste. Ms. Hudson noted the problem that breweries have in disposing of spent grains.
Mr. Goldman asked the members to consider their vision of an end product for the Task Force and to that end to consider the key issues that the Task Force should address. Mr. Dannis agreed to begin developing a matrix that includes the various issues and how they are now addressed by law.
Mr. Orndorff reminded the Task Force that considerable data had been collected as part of comprehensive rezoning and that the Task Force should focus on the key issues.
The Task Force discussed future meeting dates. Mr. Goldman indicated that, unless there was an objection, organizations represented on the Task Force may send alternate members if the named member cannot attend. There was no objection. The Task Force decided to meet next on July 31 after the 4pm tour of the County’s pilot wood waste recycling facility. The meeting is schedule for 5pm to 7pm at the Alpha Ridge Training Trailer, 2350 Marriottsville Road. Marriottsville MD 21104. Future meetings are set for August 13 6pm to 8pm, August 27 6pm to 8pm, and September 10 6pm to 8pm, all in the C. Vernon Gray Conference Room, George Howard Building, 3430 Courthouse Dr, Ellicott City MD 21043.
Mr. Goldman asked each member to send to Mr. Meyers a list of what the member considers to be the 5 key issues for the Task Force.
Mr. Meyers will compile all those received by July 25 and distribute the compilation to the Task Force.
The meeting adjourned at 6:25 p.m.