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Property owners ask court to review decision on quarry

August 26, 2005|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

MOUNT AETNA - Property owners in the Mount Aetna area have asked Washington County Circuit Court to review a decision by the County Commissioners that would allow a nearby quarry to expand its operations.

The County Commissioners on July 26 approved a request from H.B. Mellott Estate Inc. for a 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.

The approval went against the recommendation of the Washington County Planning Commission, which thought the commissioners should have denied the request.

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The approved change allows an industrial mineral floating zone to be placed over the agriculture zone, according to county documents. That would allow the company to increase the volume of mineral extraction at the quarry.

Mellott still must receive site plan approval from the Washington County Planning Commission to move forward with its expansion plans.

Easterday Family Partnership of Hagerstown filed the petition for a judicial review Aug. 11.

The petition alleges that the commissioners' decision "is affected by error of law; is unsupported by competent, material, and substantial evidence in light of the entire record as submitted; and, is arbitrary and capricious."

The petition did not elaborate on those claims. Easterday Family Partnership's attorney, Harry T. deMoll of Frederick, Md., did not return a phone call Thursday.

Friends of Mount Aetna Creek, a group committed to preserving the area, and 16 residents living near the quarry filed a motion to join the Easterday petition. On Thursday, three more people filed a motion to participate in the case.

G. Macy Nelson, a Towson, Md., attorney representing the intervenors, said Thursday he and his clients presented a "compelling case" to the Planning Commission. The Planning Commission later ruled on the side of the property owners, but the County Commissioners voted 3-2 to go against the recommendation and approve Mellott's request.

The Planning Commission decided the zoning change would be incompatible with surrounding residential properties.

The majority of the commissioners who supported Mellott's request felt it was consistent with the county's comprehensive growth plan.

In their decision, the commissioners, in part, failed to adequately state the facts it found to support Mellott's request, Nelson said.

"Did they articulate all the relevant facts? We say no," Nelson said.

Many residents of the Mount Aetna area 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.

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