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Letter: Quarry would have no ill effects

August 15, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

GERRARDSTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia's deputy historic preservation officer has concluded a shale mining operation proposed in Gerrardstown would have no adverse effects on the community if the industrial operation is shielded from view.

"The primary condition is that re-vegetation and landscaping will be completed and maintained by the applicant to mitigate the visual intrusion to both (the Prospect Hill estate) and the Gerrardstown Historic District," Susan M. Pierce wrote in a July 30 letter to Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) permit supervisor Randall E. Moore.

The 100-acre shale quarry project has been proposed by North Mountain Shale LLC, which is a subsidiary of Continental Brick Co. at 154 Charles Town Road near Martinsburg, W.Va.

The mining application for the proposed mining activity off Dominion Road and near W.Va. 51 in southwestern Berkeley County has not been deemed technically complete and still is pending DEP review.

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If the project is approved by the DEP, Pierce said the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) wants a status report on the visual mitigation effort within a year after approval.

"In addition, any expansion of the permit area by revision to the permit shall be reviewed by this office," Pierce wrote in her letter to Moore.

SHPO also asked that archaeological investigations occur in an organized fashion within the permitted area, and noted 34 acres had been surveyed.

If the conditions cannot be noted in the permit, Pierce asked that a memorandum of agreement with SHPO be drafted with the outlined conditions in it.

SHPO's conditional approval comes as the DEP is reviewing the last set of corrections for the mining application, which were submitted by the company July 14, Moore said Friday in an e-mail.

"We will probably have a few more comments before the application is deemed technically complete and give permission for the public notice period to begin," Moore said.

When asked about changes in the size of the project, Moore said the company's original submission for SHPO review was 246 acres, but an application submission to the DEP for review was 132 acres.

In response to DEP comments, the size of the project was reduced to 100 acres in the submission the agency received last month, Moore said.

The company owns more than 400 acres in Gerrardstown, according to county records.

In a July 29 letter requesting a time extension for the company's pending mining application, Don B. Sult of Continental Brick Co. told Moore it had taken the company several months to gather water monitoring data the DEP requested. Sult also noted preparing an additional report for SHPO, which is part of the West Virginia Division of Culture and History.

"We know that you understand and appreciate the time and effort that (went) into preparing the permit application corrections, which were submitted ..." Sult said in his letter.

According to Pierce's letter, submitted information reviewed by SHPO indicates no blasting would happen on the shale mining site, and excavation and stockpiling activity would be limited to two to four months out of the year.

"The shale will be moved from the surface using self-propelled scraper pans, stockpiled for several months, then transported by dump truck to the Martinsburg brick (plant)," Pierce said. "It is our understanding that the truckload trips can be timed to occur during off-peak travel hours (and) Destiny Lane will continue to be used as the only circulation route for this traffic."

In granting conditional approval, Pierce said SHPO was in agreement with a consultant's findings that the boundaries of two historic properties affected by the proposed mining site were accurate and should not be expanded.

The properties -- Prospect Hill and Oban Hall -- are homes that were built by William Wilson, a prominent businessman, between 1792 and 1825, according to National Register of Historic Places forms.

In a February letter to Moore, Pierce noted the setting for Oban Hall, which is part of the North Mountain Shale property, already had been "somewhat compromised."

Pierce noted in the conditional approval letter last month the company indicated it intended to preserve the home.

"Should future plans directly impact this building, we request an opportunity to comment," Pierce said.

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