A developer's decade-old plans to expand a rubble landfill in a western Anne Arundel County neighborhood was dealt a serious setback this week, people on both sides of the issue say.

The latest move in a years-long procedural chess match came Monday, when state officials granted residents' request to postpone a public hearing, originally scheduled for today, on the proposal to turn 80 acres near Gambrills into a dump for concrete, wood and other construction debris. Residents asked for the delay, arguing that the state had not given them adequate notice.

The delay in the state hearing could mean that the rubble landfill's owner will not obtain state permits to begin construction within the time allotted by the county.

"If we can't reschedule this hearing before the end of January, our deadline will have passed," said Michael Roblyer, an attorney for James Cunningham, the landfill's developer.

Homeowners in Gambrills, a suburban community in western Anne Arundel, aren't celebrating a victory just yet.

Many area residents have devoted years to fighting the landfill, fearing that it would bring the racket of heavy dump trucks, clouds of dust and debris and a remote risk of asbestos fibers reaching their lungs or of toxic metals leaching into their water.

"It's just not a suitable place," said Richard D. Bosley Jr., president of the homeowners association for Courts of Four Seasons, a nearby housing development. "We have legitimate concerns about safety."

The proposal would enable Cunningham to extend a landfill capped in 1997 to 80 acres of his 123-acre property. The new portion would bring in as many as 200 trucks a day, dumping rubble within a thousand yards of the Gambrills-Odenton Recreation Center, and a few thousand yards from several housing developments.

The years of delay over the plan have stemmed, in part, from changes in environmental laws that have required Cunningham to redesign the landfill. But they also are related to Cunningham Excavation Inc.'s history of state environmental violations.

In a county hearing this year, Cunningham's neighbors presented state records showing that he operated a nearby rubble landfill for 20 years "in continual violation of the law."

During that hearing, they said that Cunningham dumped rubble that was not permitted under state permits, let dangerous metals seep into ground water and piled debris considerably higher than his permits allowed, a violation that ultimately forced the landfill to close.

Roblyer, Cunningham's attorney, however, said the new landfill proposal comes with iron-clad guarantees that no future violations will be tolerated.

Roblyer said Cunningham has agreed to have a county inspector on the site at all times during hours of operation. Moreover, because of new state requirements, the landfill would have a special lining and an elaborate drainage system to prevent water from leaking into the ground.

"It's hard to imagine any concern about this landfill," Roblyer said.

Norman Myers, who has lived within a mile of the site for eight years, said he cannot imagine not being concerned. And he fears the state and county eventually will approve Cunningham's plan.

"I won't see a victory until this thing is denied its permits," he said.

County Council member Bill D. Burlison (D-Odenton) said he plans to work with the residents to fight any effort to grant the landfill any extensions from county zoning officials or permits from the state's environmental agency.

"This thing is bad news," Burlison said. "I hope that every move they make to keep it alive will be thwarted by the county Board of Appeals, the state, the county executive's office or any other agency that might come into play."