About 40 Joppa homeowners plan to oppose at a hearing tomorrow a Fallston company's proposal to start a tree-grinding and gravel surface mining operation on a 56-acre tract off Mountain Road near their homes.
The citizens, calling themselves the Mountain Road Defenders Association, will be taking their concerns to the county zoning hearing examiner during a public hearing in County Council chambers tomorrow at 7 p.m.
T.C. Simons Inc. of Fallston is seeking four special zoning exceptions to the county zoning code to allow the company to move ahead with its plan.
Simons, which outlined its request during a hearing last Monday, will present additional testimony tomorrow.
"We have no personal quarrel with Mr. Simons," said Curtis Cullen, spokesman for the Mountain Road Defenders Association. "I wish him all the success in the world. I just don't want it to be at the expense of our neighborhood."
The association has hired a lawyer and environmental consultant to help fight the plan, Cullen said. The group is distributing fliers and going door-to-door in the surrounding area to get support for its efforts.
T.C. Simons, a construction and contracting company, wants to set up the tree-grinding and gravel-extraction operations on two parcels of property along both sides of Mountain Road near Singer Road.
The site, which is in an agriculturally zoned district, is bordered by the Mountain Road Park, several farms and some residential developments.
Papers filed with the county Zoning Hearing Examiner's Office and the county Planning and Zoning Department show T.C. Simons is asking for the following:
A special exception to permit a sawmill to be constructed for grinding trees and stumps into mulch. The mulch would then be sold at the site.
A special exception to allow the extraction and processing of gravel and sand. The products also would be sold on site.
A special exception to allow the storage of commercial vehicles and equipment.
A special exception to permit construction and supplier services.
The company also is asking the zoning hearing examiner to determine whether an existing building and a parking lot can continue to be used by the company.
A staff report by the Planning and Zoning Department recommends approval of most of Simons' requests, but not of the tree-grinding operation. The planning report also recommends numerous conditions that the company should meet for approval of the mining operation.
In addition to county approvals, T.C. Simons needs a permit from the state Department of Natural Resources to mine gravel and sand at the site.
Bel Air attorney Michael E. Leaf, who was hired by the company to argue for the exceptions, could not be reached for comment.
The company's application and a staff report by the Department of Planning and Zoning on the proposal stated that a portion of the tracts had been used for sand and gravel excavation in the past. A pit left from the old excavation operations is partially filled with trash and rubble.
T.C. Simons plans to develop the site in three phases over a 10-year period, according to the planning and zoning report. The plans include clearing the site and filling in the pits of the former operations.
But residents living near the site, particularly in the Green Spring Hills development, do not believe Mountain Road is the place for tree grinding and gravel extraction, Cullen said.
"I don't think the operations are suitable for a residential and agricultural area," Cullen said. "Those activities just don't strike me as something you would want in your backyard."
The residents of Green Spring Hills, which borders the Simons tract, are concerned that the operations would bring large trucks into the neighborhood, cause loud noise and lower property values.
The residents also are concerned that the Mountain Road area will eventually be rezoned for industrial and commercial uses if Simons' request is granted, Cullen said.
But the county report on the project, dated July 31, says the impact on the neighborhood could be minimized if proper conditions are observed by the company.
The report says the Simons plan provides the opportunity to clean up the site, which has been a concern for years.
A tract bordering the Green Spring Hills community contains non-tidal wetlands that cannot be developed, the report notes.
The report recommends that the special exception for the tree-grinding operations should be denied.
However, it recommends approval of the special exception for the mineral extraction and processing if Simons gets a state permit, provides landscaping buffers around the site, and prohibits noisy operations near residential neighborhoods.
The report also recommends approval for the company's other requests on the condition that landscaping and screening are added throughout the site.