Commissioners deny quarry rezoning request

July 28, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- The Washington County Commissioners voted Tuesday to deny a long-debated rezoning request that would have allowed Martin Marietta Materials to mine an additional 77 acres west of the current Pinesburg Quarry near Williamsport.

Commissioner Kristin B. Aleshire, who made the motion to deny the request, said the decision was due to "unresolved issues." Aleshire and other commissioners said they were not satisfied with the list of conditions that were proposed as terms of the approval.

The vote brought an end to nearly two years of hearings and discussions about the request, during which several of the quarry's neighbors protested the expansion, citing concerns about blasting, property values and the potential for problems with their wells.

Martin Marietta Materials operates a limestone quarry on the land between Clear Spring Road (Md. 68) and the Potomac River, northwest of Williamsport. The company has a contract to purchase an additional 77.08 acres, located on the south side of Md. 68 and west of the current mining operation, said Stephen T. Goodrich, the county's chief planner. The company was seeking a mining overlay on the zoning designation for that property, Goodrich said.


The company agreed to a list of conditions for the approval, which included restrictions on blasting, provisions for well protection, regular meetings with nearby residents and a buffer around the new quarry area.

Aleshire said he was not satisfied with the terms of several of the conditions. Among other things, Aleshire said he wanted the rezoning approval to be conditioned upon the results of a study of the quarry's impact on area wells. He also said requirements for preblast surveys and buffer areas should apply to the existing quarry, as well as the proposed expansion.

Reached by phone after the meeting, neighbors who fought the expansion praised the commissioners for their decision.

"I'm glad that the commissioners served the constituency's interest over big business," said Clear Spring Road resident Terry Neuschafer. "I plan to support them because of that."

Grace Myers, another Clear Spring Road resident, said she was pleasantly surprised by the decision, which she suspected would go the other way.

"It renews my faith in our elected officials," Myers said. "They're standing up for us. That's what they're supposed to do."

The company will have the opportunity to resubmit its rezoning request in the future, but opponents said they hoped the company would wait a decade or two.

Martin Marietta Materials has said it does not intend to mine the new area until it exhausts the potential of its current property in about 15 or 20 years.

"I'm in my 60s and my neighbors are in their 60s," Myers said. "You kind of think they'll put it off until we're gone, and fight somebody new."

Neuschafer said he hopes that will be the case.

"I'm sure they'll be back, but not on my watch, I hope," he said.

Other neighbors were not as happy with the decision.

Daniel Hammond, whose Clear Spring Road farm borders the quarry, said he wished the commissioners had worked out a deal that would resolve neighbors' grievances with the existing quarry.

"I'd like them to take a little more friendly look at the damages that were done in the area," Hammond said.

Commissioner James F. Kercheval, who voted against denying the request, said during a June 16 discussion that he supported the rezoning because expanding an existing quarry is preferable to creating a new one or importing stone into the county.

Kercheval said the expansion actually would move the mining operation farther from the homes of most of the residents protesting the expansion.

Assistant County Attorney Kirk C. Downey said he would prepare a written decision and finding of fact on the request, based on the commissioners' comments.

How they voted

The Washington County Commissioners voted 3-2 Tuesday to deny a rezoning request that would have allowed mining on an additional 77 acres near the Pinesburg Quarry.

A "yes" vote was a vote against the rezoning.

John F. Barr -- no

Terry Baker -- yes

Kristin B. Aleshire -- yes

James F. Kercheval -- no

William J. Wivell -- yes

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