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Quarrel over quarry

HAGERSTOWN - Civil engineer Robert Kondner predicted Monday night that there could be problems if a quarry near Mount Aetna Road

HAGERSTOWN - Civil engineer Robert Kondner predicted Monday night that there could be problems if a quarry near Mount Aetna Road

December 14, 2004|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - Civil engineer Robert Kondner predicted Monday night that there could be problems if a quarry near Mount Aetna Road expands as its owners are planning.

Kondner was one of several expert witnesses at Hagerstown Community College's Kepler Theater who presented points opposing H.B. Mellott Estate's proposed quarry expansion. Mellott is seeking a zoning change from the county that would allow the expansion.

The area near Mount Aetna Road is on porous land, Kondner said. There are sinkholes and a cave once used for tourist attractions, he said.

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"That, coupled with the sinkholes, demonstrates that you have a Swiss cheese under this area," Kondner said, describing the ground.

Blasting associated with the quarry expansion could cause more sinkholes, even near where homes are planned to be built.

"I sure ... wouldn't want to have one of those homes located near ... a potential sinkhole," Kondner said, addressing a members of both the Washington County Commissioners and the Washington County Planning Commission.

The property in question is on 80.33 acres in an agricultural zone on the east side of Mapleville Road, which is Md. 66, and north of the Interstate 70 intersection.

There were about 230 people in the audience at 7 p.m. when the public hearing began, but more streamed in as the proceedings continued.

Rhett Eklund, one of the organizers of a citizens group opposed to the quarry expansion, estimated there may have been as many as 400 in the audience at one point. Eklund's group is the Friends of Mount Aetna Creek, or FROMAC.

More than 30 people spoke against the quarry's zoning request.

No members of the public spoke on behalf of the quarry, and there was a brief technical dispute between quarry attorney John Urner and G. Macy Nelson, the attorney representing Eklund's group, about whether county officials should allow quarry representatives time to present more testimony.

Urner argued that because opponents were allowed 21/2 hours to present their case, Mellott should be allowed at least an hour, and he asked the county officials to reschedule for another date.

Nelson argued that rebuttal was unfair for a group that had two years to prepare its case for the county while the residents' group had a matter of weeks.

After a brief recess, County Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said he would allow Mellott to present its rebuttal, and required it to take place immediately. Snook said that instead of leaving the record open for more public comment for 10 days, the county would seal the record Monday night, but will allow written closing arguments from Urner and Nelson.

Craig Robertson was the first speaker on behalf of Mellott, and he began by disputing claims by another expert who spoke on a video recording shown to the county officials on Monday.

Robertson said that the video-taped testimony was flawed because the expert was guessing on information about the quarry site rather than making an informed opinion.

"It is not an accepted practice in our profession to extrapolate data in the manner (hydrogeologist Grant Garvin) did," Robertson said. "He presented a lot of contradictions ... without any specifics."

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