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No action taken on proposed Pinesburg Quarry expansion

Washington County Commissioners say quarry needs to do more for residents

Washington County Commissioners say quarry needs to do more for residents

April 30, 2008|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

WILLIAMSPORT -- A proposed expansion of the Pinesburg Quarry in Williamsport was not approved Tuesday by the Washington County Commissioners, some of whom said the quarry must do more for nearby residents before they approve the expansion.

Several county commissioners questioned how the expansion would affect wells and water quality in the area and asked what can be done for residents whose property is damaged by blasting.

They also said they were concerned about what would happen to a historic house and barn on the site of the proposed expansion.

"We're deciding an issue of compatibility today, and this expansion is not compatible with existing homes and farms," Commissioner Kristin B. Aleshire said.

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Officials from Martin Marietta Materials Inc., which operates the Pinesburg Quarry, were at Tuesday's meeting and said they would consider the commissioners' concerns.

Because the commissioners took no action on Martin Marietta's request, the company can bring it back to the commissioners for consideration in the future.

Martin Marietta asked the commissioners to rezone 77 acres of land near the intersection of Md. 68 and Bottom Road so the company can extract rock from the limestone-rich farm soil west of the existing 180-acre rock quarry.

The existing quarry has about 20 years of life remaining, and the expansion would allow mining to continue there for 80 or more years, Martin Marietta officials have said.

But many people who live near the quarry have argued against the expansion, saying it will magnify the effects of rock blasting on their houses and wells.

"When they blast, my house shakes...I've got cracks in almost every closet," resident Grace Myers said at a public hearing on the rezoning in November 2007.

Myers is one of several residents opposed to the expansion who live along the north side of Md. 68 across from the proposed rezoning site.

Her neighbor, Terry Neuschafer, said he has had his basement walls reinforced to sustain the quarry's blasts. He said he is worried that his well might collapse if the quarry starts blasting closer to his property.

In response to public outcry over the proposed expansion, Martin Marietta added several amendments to its rezoning application before taking it before the commissioners Tuesday.

The company agreed not to blast on the new property within 500 feet of an existing, occupied structure not owned by Martin Marietta.

Martin Marietta also agreed to treat six wells outside of what is called the "zone of influence" as if they were in that zone, which is a state-determined area where Martin Marietta can be held liable for damage to property.

In addition, the company agreed to give the property's current owner, Peggy J. Petre, the right to move or sell all or part of the historic house after the land is sold to Martin Marietta. Petre would have that right through 2012, when the same rights would be granted to the county until 2014.

Martin Marietta also agreed not to add access to the quarry from the rezoned property and not to build a processing plant on the expanded site.

However, several county commissioners said the company needs to do more.

Commissioner William J. Wivell said the zone of influence is too small and suggested that Martin Marietta create a fund for repairs to nearby properties.

He also said the company should pay to relocate the historic house.

"There's a lot of money to be made here, and I think it's a minimal request to ask Martin Marietta to move this structure," Wivell said.

Commissioner Terry L. Baker suggested expanding the setback requirements along Bottom Road, which borders the existing mine.

He also said the blasting agreement does not protect future homes.

"If I've worked my whole life and want to build a house 100 feet from my property line up there, nothing is being done to protect that," Baker said.

Commissioner James F. Kercheval supported the rezoning but said Martin Marietta should consider meeting with residents on a regular basis to talk about activities at the mine and hear their concerns.

Commissioners President John F. Barr said he also supports the rezoning and noted that the quarry has been in the area for about 100 years.

However, Barr said he agrees with Wivell's comments that "Martin Marietta hasn't been as good a neighbor as they could be."

"Certainly, right now, Martin Marietta is playing catch up," Barr said, referring to the amendments to the rezoning application. "But it might be too little too late."

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