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Judge affirms Mellott quarry zoning change

August 29, 2006|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

WASHINGTON COUNTY - The Washington County Commissioners correctly approved a zoning change that allows a quarry to expand, but they must explain part of their findings, a judge said in a written decision filed Monday.

Washington County Circuit Judge John H. McDowell affirmed the commissioners' decision to place an industrial mineral floating zone over 80.33 acres zoned agricultural.

However, McDowell sent the matter back to the commissioners and ordered them to explain their findings on where asphalt and cement batch plants will be within the zone.

The commissioners voted 3-2 in July 2005 in favor of the zone change for H.B. Mellott's Beaver Creek Quarry.

Easterday Family Partnership of Hagerstown appealed the commissioners' decision to Washington County Circuit Court. Members of a citizens' group known as Friends of Mount Aetna Creek (FROMAC) joined the appeal.

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"Neither side can claim victory," G. Macy Nelson, FROMAC's attorney, said Monday.

Nelson said it Is uncertain what evidence in the record supports the commissioners' findings on the point McDowell cited.

The placement of asphalt and concrete batch plants was among several questions raised in the appeal.

McDowell affirmed the commissioners' decision based on their reviews of blasting, air quality and land use.

But he ruled that they didn't discuss possible locations for concrete and blacktop plants or their compatibility with the area.

Easterday Family Partnership attorney Harry T. deMoll learned of McDowell's decision Monday from a reporter. He declined to comment until he read it.

Attorneys representing the county commissioners and H.B. Mellott couldn't be reached late Monday afternoon.

FROMAC member Claudia Eklund said she wanted to keep her comment short and simple: "May Mount Aetna always be remembered for her natural beauty and cultural resources."

During a hearing before McDowell on July 13, Nelson said that after expansion the quarry operation would be within 1,250 feet of 20 existing homes and two others that had been approved but not built.

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

Mellott attorney John Urner said at the time that the area is considered rural, not residential.

The county commissioners showed concern for the quarry's expansion by attaching 12 conditions to the rezoning, Urner said then.

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

Mellott has mined in the area since 1967 and currently excavates limestone on 219.3 acres, according to a memo in McDowell's decision.

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