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County weighs quarry decision

June 27, 1999|By SCOTT BUTKI

More than five months after a public hearing on the issue before the Washington County Commissioners, the body is scheduled to vote Tuesday on a controversial rezoning request by H.B. Mellott Estates Inc., which needs the change to expand its Beaver Creek quarry.

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The Washington County Planning Commission, at its May 3 meeting, voted to recommend the property be rezoned.

That was in spite of concern expressed by Senior Planner Timothy Lung in an 11-page written report.

In it, he cautioned that expanding the quarry from 129 to 208 acres may damage the Beaver Creek Spring. The creek feeds the Albert M. Powell Trout Hatchery area.

Commissioner Paul L. Swartz cited concern about damage to the creek as one of the main reasons he plans to vote against the rezoning request when it is discussed at 8:05 p.m. Tuesday in the commissioners meeting room, County Administration Building, 100 W. Washington St., Hagerstown.

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The other main reason is concern about how the expansion would effect nearby residents, particularly with noise and dust, he said.

Swartz was the only commissioner willing to go on record Friday as stating a clear opposition to the quarry rezoning, which Mellott needs to proceed with its expansion plans. Mellott would also need approval, at a later date, of its site plans.

Commissioner William J. Wivell said he needs to further examine the issue before deciding how he will vote.

Commissioners John L. Schnebly and Bert Iseminger said that before voting to approve the rezoning they would first need to get some information from County Attorney Richard Douglas and Planning Director Robert Arch on what conditions they could place on the quarry, particularly regarding the springs.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook was out of town and unavailable for comment.

Mellott has an option to lease from John Schneider 79 acres in the northeast corner of the Md. 66-Interstate 70 interchange.

The land is zoned conservation, and the company wants to add the industrial-mineral overlay to match the zoning it has on the rest of the quarry property. The overlay is needed so the company can extract mineral reserves from the property.

The Maryland Department of the Environment will not examine the company's request to expand its mine to the south unless the County Commissioners approve the rezoning request, Lung said.

Azmat Hussain, a geologist for the county, detailed what he saw as deficiencies in a study conducted by a hydro-geologist working for Mellott. While the Mellott study said the quarry will have no adverse impact on the region, Hussain said more information is needed to prove that claim.

About 100 people attended a Jan. 11 joint public hearing on the rezoning request before the County Commissioners and the Planning Commission. The county has received 31 letters in opposition, including two petitions with 112 signatures against the idea.

Mellott has promised it would not start digging in the expanded portion for at least eight years, county officials said.

Mellott referred calls to attorney John Urner, who did not return phone calls.

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