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Planning commission votes against quarry

April 05, 2005|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY - For Crest Valley resident Charles Starliper, the Washington County Planning Commission's decision Monday night regarding a proposed quarry expansion was a "no-brainer."

The planning commission voted 4-0 to recommend that the Washington County Commissioners deny a zoning change that would allow H.B. Mellott Estate Inc. to increase its mining at Beaver Creek Quarry near Mount Aetna Road.

It's up to the commissioners to reject or approve the requested zoning change.

The Planning Commission said the property in question is close to homes, and might harm the quality of life by negatively affecting property values and increasing traffic.

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"Of course, I'm delighted with the vote," Starliper said. "I'm biased and I acknowledge that, but how anybody could have ignored those things is beyond me."

The Crest Valley subdivision in which Starliper lives is within 1/2 mile of the Mellott property, he said.

Mellott Vice Chairman Terry Randall did not return a phone call placed to his home Monday night.

The property for which Mellott wants the zoning change is 80.33 acres in an agriculture zone, on the east side of Mapleville Road (Md. 66) and north of the Interstate 70 intersection.

Mellott has requested that an industrial mineral floating zone be placed over the agriculture zone. That would allow the company to increase the volume of mineral extraction.

Many residents and several expert witnesses have said a quarry expansion could have negative effects on surrounding property, including causing more sinkholes from blasting near already porous grounds, increasing traffic, and disrupting a peaceful and historic area.

It would "be detrimental to our responsibility if we would recommend that this rezoning request go through," Planning Commission Vice Chairman R. Ben Clopper said.

"What you really can't change is the proximity of the (property) to quite a few houses," he said.

Planning Commission member George Anikis said there are at least 26 houses on the east side of the Mellott property, seven on the west side and two subdivisions within 1/2 mile of the site.

Highland View Academy and Mount Aetna Camp and Retreat also are within 1/2 mile of the Mellott property, Anikis said.

He also said he was concerned that Mellott's plan would greatly increase traffic in the area.

"The road maybe can handle the traffic, but I don't know the drivers can handle the traffic," Anikis said.

The planning commission held the meeting in a nearly full Courtroom 1 of the Washington County Courthouse. No members of the public were permitted to speak during the meeting, and the crowd sat quietly throughout the discussion.

Before the meeting, Friends of Mount Aetna Creek handed out an agenda to those in the audience asking them to behave appropriately during the meeting.

Friends of Mount Aetna Creek is a citizens-based group opposed to the proposed Mellott zoning change.

"Please model behavior displayed at a church during sermon hour. Listen attentively and take notes to key points made for basing recommendation. Verbal public input and ourbursts will not be tolerated by Washington County Planning Commission," the agenda said.

Clopper, Anikis and Planning Commission members Bernard Moser and Linda Parrish cast the votes. Member Terry Reiber was absent.

Commission member James F. Kercheval, who is also a Washington County Commissioner, abstained. Kercheval said he abstained because he plans to vote as a commissioner.

Planning Commission Chairman Donald Ardinger didn't vote, saying his vote wasn't necessary because there was no tie.

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