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Opponents lobby against proposed concrete plant

March 17, 2006|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN - LaFarge North America has proposed opening a ready-mixed concrete plant in an industrial zone on Florida Avenue near Western Heights Middle School.

Neighbors and Washington County Board of Education officials lobbied against the plan at a hearing Wednesday before the Hagerstown Board of Zoning Appeals.

The meeting ended too late for the board to decide on LaFarge's request to allow the plant as a special exception in the zone.

The board is likely to call a meeting in the next few weeks to rule on that case and several others it discussed Wednesday. It has 30 days to issue written decisions.

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Craig S. Vacovsky, LaFarge North America's manager of fixed plants for the Eastern U.S. region, testified that ready-mixed concrete products would be loaded on trucks at the plant and delivered to Washington County customers.

He said the operation would average about 30 trucks a day delivering raw materials to the plant and another 30 trucks a day delivering cement.

Vacovsky testified that the plant would have a state-of-the-art system to prevent dust from getting from the plant or its trucks into the neighborhood air.

Residents doubted that dust and particulates could be entirely contained. Some said they're especially worried because many students at Marshall Street School nearby have severe breathing problems.

Taj Smith said her 9-year-old son, a student there, has respiratory problems, epilepsy and autism. "There's nowhere else for me to send him," she said.

"The students at this school are medically fragile," Washington County Board of Education Vice President Jacqueline Fischer said, reading from a prepared statement.

Jason Divelbiss, an attorney representing LaFarge North America Mid-Atlantic LLC, the applicant, said the new plant could produce less truck traffic than a milk business that's there now.

City Engineer Rodney Tissue, who testified against the proposed plant said a 2003 study showed that Horst Milk Transfer had about 16 trucks a day.

Tissue said neighborhood streets don't support the truck traffic the new plant would create.

Others testified that the roads are narrow and in bad shape.

Some said the noise from the cement trucks would disturb the neighborhood.

Joyce Kirsch, the mother of a Western Heights sixth-grader, gave the board more than 80 letters from students expressing concerns about health hazards, plus almost as many posters.

Divelbiss told the board that it could rule against the applicant only if there were problems specific to the site. Instead, complaints that came up Wednesday were about the use, not the site, he said.

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