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Mount Aetna quarry expansion probable

July 20, 2005|by TARA REILLY

MOUNT AETNA

tarar@herald-mail.com

The majority of the Washington County Commissioners said Tuesday they support a zoning change that would allow a Mount Aetna-area quarry expansion.

Approval of an expansion would overturn an earlier decision by the county's Planning Commission.

Residents living near the quarry said they were disappointed by the commissioners' decision.

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.

The commissioners plan to make the decision final next week.

H.B. Mellott Estate Inc. requested the zoning change for 80.33 acres in an agricultural zone on the east side of Mapleville Road (Md. 66) and north of the intersection with Interstate 70 for its Beaver Creek Quarry.

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

Two County Commissioners, John C. Munson and Doris J. Nipps, said it was a tough decision but that they supported the request.

Two others, William J. Wivell and James F. Kercheval, said they opposed the request, leaving the tie-breaking decision to Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook.

Snook's position wasn't immediately clear after he addressed the issue.

"I'll support the commissioners in reference to the application," Snook said.

When asked by Wivell what he meant by that statement, Snook said he supported Mellott.

Snook said the zoning change would be consistent with the county's Comprehensive Plan.

In April, the Planning Commission voted 4-0 to recommend that the commissioners reject the zoning change, saying the property in question is close to homes and might harm the quality of life by negatively affective property values and increasing traffic.

"It's sad," Carl Rodriguez, representative of Mount Aetna Retreat and Camp Center, said of the commissioners' decision after the meeting.

Rodriguez is a resident of the area.

"I don't think no one wants to see the quarry close," Rodriguez said. "We just want to co-exist."

"Friends of Mount Aetna Creek will not forget the pivotal role that each commissioner played in this important decision," organization member Claudia Eklund said.

The group formed in opposition to the zoning change shortly after finding out about Mellott's plans.

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