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No decision on quarry appeal

July 14, 2006|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

WASHINGTON COUNTY

After hearing two hours of arguments Thursday on H.B. Mellott's Beaver Creek Quarry expansion, Washington County Circuit Judge John H. McDowell said he'll take time before issuing a written decision.

A citizens' group and a family partnership are jointly appealing the Washington County Commissioners' July 2005 rezoning decision that allows the quarry to expand.

On Thursday, attorneys for the citizens' group - known as Friends of Mount Aetna Creek (FROMAC) - and for Easterday Family Partnership of Hagerstown urged McDowell to overturn the zone change.

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G. Macy Nelson, FROMAC's attorney, said the quarry operation after expanding would be within 1,250 feet of 20 existing homes and two others that have been approved but not built.

Also, the quarry would be at a higher elevation than the surrounding area, which is "backward," he said.

John Urner, an attorney representing H.B. Mellott, said the area is considered rural.

"This is not a residential community," he said.

He said the county commissioners showed their concern for the quarry's expansion on the area by attaching 12 conditions to the rezoning.

The county commissioners voted 3-2 in July 2005 to place an industrial mineral floating zone over 80.33 acres that are zoned agricultural.

The land is on the east side of Mapleville Road (Md. 66), north of its intersection with Interstate 70.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook and commissioners Doris J. Nipps and John C. Munson voted in favor of the zone change. Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell and Commissioner James F. Kercheval opposed it.

On Aug. 11, 2005, Easterday Family Partnership appealed the decision. A week later, FROMAC filed a motion to be a party in the case.

Washington County Circuit Judge Frederick C. Wright III ruled Feb. 8 that six of FROMAC's 18 members could join the appeal.

Nelson argued before McDowell on Thursday that the county's zoning ordinance prohibits machines that cause vibrations from affecting other properties, which he alleged would be the case with the quarry.

He said a quarry operation is not compatible with the neighborhood and asked McDowell to overrule the county commissioners.

Harry T. deMoll, an attorney representing Easterday Family Partnership, touched on similar points.

Urner, however, said mining is a use for a rural area, which is what the county commissioners decided in this case.

Attorney Kirk Downey, representing the commissioners, said the county's comprehensive plan puts a value on resources that quarries provide. He said it's better for existing quarries to expand than for new ones to start.

The quarry started 34 years ago and has a good track record, even while operating near a fish hatchery, Urner said.

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