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Berkeley County offers friendly support to quarry appeals

March 31, 2011|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthewu@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — The Berkeley County Council voted 3-2 Thursday to take legal action, albeit in a limited manner, in the ongoing appeal of permits issued for a controversial proposed quarry operation in Gerrardstown, W.Va.

Council members Doug Copenhaver and James “Jim” Whitacre voted against the action, which directs the council’s attorney, Norwood Bentley III, to submit a “friend of the court” brief outlining the county’s position on the development proposed by North Mountain Shale LLC.

Council members Elaine Mauck, Anthony J. “Tony” Petrucci and William L. “Bill” Stubblefield appeared to agree that the county’s brief should take a “middle of the road” position on the proposed quarry, but also outline their interest in protecting the county.

Hearings concerning the appeals of the permits issued to North Mountain Shale LLC will be held by the Environmental Quality Board and the Surface Mine Board at the Holiday Inn in Martinsburg on June 7-9, state Department of Environmental Protection officials said Thursday.

Neighboring residents and environmental and historic preservation advocates have appealed the DEP permits, which were issued in January for a 100-acre quarry operation off W.Va. 51.

In a letter sent to the county council this week, the Berkeley County Historic Landmarks Commission urged council members to appeal the DEP’s decisions, citing additional historical significance of the area that is proposed for quarrying.

Stubblefield said Thursday that the deadline had passed for the county to file an appeal similar to what Potomac Riverkeeper Inc., Gerrardstown Presbyterian Church or Washington Heritage Trail Inc., had filed.

Bentley also noted that apparent new information provided by Landmarks Commission Chairman Todd Funkhouser about the history of blacks in the Gerrardstown, W.Va., area prior to the Civil War would not be permitted in an appeal.

Funkhouser said in the letter to council members that the Landmarks Commission was “overlooked in the discussion concerning the issuing of the permit ...”

Funkhouser also noted historical research shows that “free blacks’ owned land in the area of the proposed quarry operation as early as 1848 and later created their own school in 1860 for area children, which eventually became Mount Olive Methodist Church.

In addition to concerns about the quarry operation’s proximity to historic sites, others have claimed that one of the DEP’s permits failed to require adequate control of fugitive particulate matter and that the DEP failed to investigate the potential impact on the public health of the particulate emissions and pollutant discharges to surrounding waters.

The appeal also claims the proposed hauling road, Destiny Drive off Dominion Road, does not meet state regulations, and that the quarry operation will adversely affect Gerrardstown’s historic and cultural resources.

DEP officials have said they factored residents’ concerns into their decision to issue the permits and have included a number of conditions to mitigate visual intrusion on neighboring historic properties.

The agency has said it also placed limits on the amount of acreage from which shale could be removed at any given time by North Mountain Shale, which is affiliated with Continental Brick Co.

Copenhaver said Thursday he didn’t know if it would be beneficial since county officials have already stated their concerns with the project.

Mauck said she felt the friends of the court brief should be written to let the DEP know the county council is trying to protect the county and responding to the concerns of residents.

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