County reverses decision, approves zoning for Pinesburg Quarry expansion

June 07, 2011|By HEATHER KEELS |

A long-debated zoning overlay that will allow expansion of a Williamsport-area quarry got the green light Tuesday from the Washington County Board of Commissioners.

Four of the five commissioners said they were in favor of approving an "industrial mineral" zoning overlay that will allow Martin Marietta Materials to mine an additional 77 acres west of the current Pinesburg Quarry.

The previous board of county commissioners voted in 2009 to deny the zoning overlay, but a Washington County Circuit Court judge found the board's reasoning was inadequate and ordered the county to reconsider.

The commissioners' consensus Tuesday authorized county legal staff to prepare a "finding of fact" in support of granting the overlay, which the commissioners will be asked to formally approve at a future meeting.

Commissioners President Terry Baker was the only commissioner opposed to granting the zoning overlay Tuesday. Baker said he thought an expansion of mining activity would change the character of the neighborhood.

The Pinesburg Quarry is a limestone quarry between the Potomac River and Clear Spring Road (Md. 68), northwest of Williamsport. Martin Marietta Materials requested the zoning overlay in 2007 as the company prepared to buy additional land west of the quarry. Company officials have said the company does not intend to mine that new area until it exhausts the potential of the existing property in about 15 or 20 years.

Residents near the quarry have protested the expansion, citing concerns about blasting, property values and the potential for problems with their wells.

The county based its 2009 denial on four factors: residents' concerns about adverse impacts, the incompatibility of mining with the increasing residential nature of the area, concerns about the impact of mining on water availability, and concerns about historic structures on the property.

The mining company petitioned for judicial review of that decision.

In a September 2010 opinion, Circuit Judge M. Kenneth Long Jr. said the mining company had sufficiently disproved claims about noise and water-related impacts. Long also noted that the expansion would move mining operations farther away from homes on Bottom Road and said the commissioners had no authority to require preservation of historic structures.

During previous discussions, Martin Marietta Materials agreed to accept 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. The commissioners who supported the approval Tuesday agreed those conditions should be required as terms of the approval.

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