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Land rezoned for quarry

June 30, 1999|By SCOTT BUTKI

On a 3-2 vote, the Washington County Commissioners Tuesday approved a rezoning that H.B. Mellott Estates Inc. needed to expand its Beaver Creek quarry.

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The vote moves Mellott a step closer to expanding the quarry from 129 to 208 acres but the company also needs the Washington County Commissioners to approve its site plan at a later time

Commissioners Bert L. Iseminger and John L. Schnebly and Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook voted to rezone the property, while Commissioners Paul L. Swartz and William J. Wivell cast the opposing votes.

The Washington County Planning Commission on May 3 recommended the rezoning be approved.

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

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The land is zoned conservation, and the company wants to add an 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.

Opponents of the rezoning have said they were concerned about increased noise and dust if the quarry is expanded.

Much of the attention has focused on possible damage to the nearby Beaver Creek Spring, which feeds the Albert M. Powell Trout Hatchery area. The quarry is adjacent to the hatchery area.

"There are too many unknowns on this project to go ahead," Wivell said.

But Schnebly and Iseminger said the quarry has been operating for 30 years and that by setting conditions, concern for residents of the area and for the environment can be balanced with the company's plans.

The rezoning was passed with three conditions:

* Mellott must install a fence around the entire quarry for safety reasons.

* Mellott must do a study to respond to questions raised by project opponents about the effect the quarry will have on the region.

* The "zone of influence" around the quarry must be expanded, which means that if neighbors' wells or the creek are damaged than Mellott would have to remedy the problem, Iseminger said.

A Maryland Department of the Environment spokesman has said the agency will not examine the company's request to expand its quarry to the south unless the County Commissioners approve the rezoning request.

With future examination of Mellott's plans by the county and state, Iseminger said he felt concerns of opponents could be addressed. That could involve adding other requirements to the company's plans, he said.

Mellott officials have told the county it would not begin work in the rezoned area for at least eight years.

Most residents in the area oppose the rezoning, said Roger Worthington, president of the Friends of Beaver Creek, a group that organized in an attempt to block a prior expansion.

After the meeting, Worthington said he was most disappointed by the comments and vote of Iseminger because he is a former Washington County Planning Commission chairman and someone who sought the group's support in the 1998 election.

About 100 people attended a Jan. 11 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.

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