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Residents sound off over quarry zoning request

November 08, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

MOUNT AETNA - Rhett Eklund said it usually is a losing battle to fight a zoning change requested by a business.

Still, about 75 residents of Mount Aetna and Beaver Creek gathered Sunday evening in what was the beginning of their fight against a zoning change that would allow an existing quarry to expand.

H.B. Mellott Estate Inc. has requested that 80.3 acres of its land on Md. 66 north of Interstate 70 be reclassified as an agriculture with industrial mineral overlay zone, according to a Washington County Planning Commission letter. The letter, signed by Planning Director Michael C. Thompson, states a public meeting will be held Nov. 15 at Washington County Circuit Court on the possible zoning amendment.

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A representative for Mellott could not be reached for comment late Sunday.

Eklund, one of the organizers of Friends of Mount Aetna Creek, a group designed to fight the Mellott request, said he believes the county has not done enough to educate residents about Mellott's plans or give them time to form a proper response.

Eklund said plans for the zoning change were received by the office of the Planning Commission in mid-September, though several residents at the meeting said they did not receive the notice from the commission until last week.

"Due process has not been followed," said Eklund, who admitted that successfully fighting the amendment would be difficult. "If they (the county) knew this was going on, the letter should have gone out to the public earlier."

Residents at the meeting expressed concerns that an expanded mining operation would have various negative effects on the quality of life for area residents. Among their concerns was the view from new homes constructed near the Mellott property, the draining of the area's water supply and substantially increased truck traffic.

But while Eklund said he wanted the rezoning halted completely, other residents said they were more open to discussion on the issue.

Robert Bryce, a resident of the nearby Mountain View development, said he wants the process slowed somewhat so residents clearly understand what is happening. He said because residents know little about the actual facts of the petition for the zoning change, they have assumed the worst.

"It's one thing if they only need a small portion, but if they need to clear out all the trees in the area, that's totally different," Bryce said.

Miller Church Road resident David Eklund said he believes the Washington County Commissioners should step in to help preserve the quality of life for residents and the safety of children who attend schools in the immediate area by denying the Mellott request.

"They have to decide whether they are for the people or for the corporations," he said.

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