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One person testifies against proposed zoning change for quarry

August 02, 2011|By HEATHER KEELS | heather.keels@herald-mail.com

A man who owns a farm bordering a proposed quarry expansion was the only person to testify Tuesday evening against a zoning change on land north of Hagerstown owned by the cement company Holcim (US) Inc.

“We’re living close to that quarry now and for them to move any closer is just going to be worse for us,” said Herman Stockslager, whose Old Forge Road property borders the northern edge of the proposed expansion.

His testimony was part of a public hearing before the Washington County Board of Commissioners, which will be tasked with deciding whether to approve what is designated as an Industrial Mineral floating zone on 120.11 acres north of Holcim’s current limestone quarry.

The rezoning alone would not authorize mining to take place on the land, acting Washington County Planning Director Stephen T. Goodrich said. The company will have to apply for and receive permits before mining could begin, he said.

John Urner, an attorney representing Holcim, said at the hearing that the additional acreage would be “reserves” to mine at a later date and would replace about 90 acres of current reserves that the company has agreed to lease to the county at no cost for use as a park.

That land is closer to the Urban Growth Area around Hagerstown than the area to the north proposed for use instead.

The net difference is about 30 acres of additional land zoned for mining over and above what already exists, Urner said.

Stockslager questioned whether a site so close to a quarry was a good location for a park. He said his property already experiences vibration, noise, dust, air pollution, water issues and sinkholes.

“When they blast back there, it’s just like an earthquake,” he said.

Once, in 1996, Stockslager said his 3-year-old and 4-year-old children were outside when “the earth shook, the sky turned black, stones rained down out of the sky.”

After that incident, quarry workers took samples of the stones and said they would get back to him with more information about what they were, but he said he never heard back from them.

In a rebuttal, Urner said Holcim has provided data showing that vibrations from every blast in the past five years have been below the level at which there is zero probability of property damage.

He also said the number of blasts does not exceed about 26 a year.

Urner said he thought it was remarkable that the proposed zoning presents a problem to only one individual.

“I don’t mean to downplay Mr. Stockslager’s situation, but this is not anywhere near a typical planning rezoning case where many people say they will be impacted adversely by the proposal,” he said.

The commissioners took no action, but will be expected to consider the testimony and vote on the zoning proposal at a future meeting.

According to the zoning ordinance, factors they are to consider include the purpose of the Industrial Mineral district, the applicable policies of the Comprehensive Plan, the compatibility of the proposed district with adjacent lands and the effect of the mineral extraction operations on public roadways.

The Washington County Planning Commission voted in June to recommend approval of the zoning request.

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