If the county halts development in the Wakefield Valley area for a year, Charles C. Hill of New Windsor worries that he won't be able to afford to send his daughter to Loyola College in Baltimore.
"I'm just a little guy. What do I do?" Hill asked the County Commissioners at a public hearing Monday.
Hill is trying to sell two lots on his property, which is adjacent to a quarry owned by Genstar Stone Products Co. He said he needs the money to pay his daughter's tuition.
The commissioners are considering a moratorium on development in the area until the county decides how to handle mineral resources there.
If a moratorium is approved, Hill could sell his land, but the new owners couldn't get building permits for a year or until a mining plan is finished, whichever comes first.
"Why are you holding me up?" he asked.
About 50 people attended the hearing, many of them real estate agents and property owners in the Wakefield Valley area, a mineral-rich region between Westminster and New Windsor.
The commissioners will vote on a law that would prohibit development within a half-mile radius of two existing quarries and one proposed quarry for a year, or until a mining plan is finished.
"Our intent is to establish a status quo" until a plan is written, County Attorney Charles W. "Chuck" Thompson Jr. said.
Laura Decker of New Windsor supports a moratorium, calling it a chance for all involved to "take a deep breath."
"There are a lot of things that affect us that we don't know about," she said.
Georgia Hoff of New Windsor said people considering building in the area should be informed about mining activity, but should be allowed to build if they want to.
"The whole crux of the matter is personal property rights. It's up to me to decide whether I want to build there or not," she said.
Commissioner Jeff Griffith said the board probably would vote on the measure by the end of the month. The new Board of Commissioners takes office Dec. 3.
Griffith said he would be willing to make exceptions in the law for Hill and other property owners who already have recorded lots. The county should inventory recorded lots that would be affected, he said.
The law already makes exceptions for Lehigh Portland Cement Co., which has received state permits for part of its New Windsor expansion, and Genstar, which has state permission to expand its Medford operation. The law also would permit McGregor Printing Corp. to build a warehouse on New Windsor Road. Warehouse manager Albert C. Lang said the company plans to build a 90,000-square-foot warehouse.
Commissioner Julia W. Gouge said she also would consider exceptions for recorded lots, but said all comments made at the hearing would have to be considered.
"We have to do what's best for the majority of the citizens," she said.
Commissioner President John L. Armacost wouldn't say how he might vote.
"It may be we'll make it stiffer. It may be we'll forget it," he said.
The moratorium would not apply to land within municipal limits, Thompson said.
Evans Kunes of Woodbine, who owns property in the area, asked if a moratorium could be extended if the mining plan wasn't finished within a year.
The commissioners would have to conduct another public hearing before extending a moratorium, Thompson said. But he added that an extension isn't likely because county planners say the plan should be finished in nine months.
K. Marlene Conaway, planning department bureau chief, said the staff has been working on the three-part plan since the end of August. The first part, a study of existing conditions, is 90 percent complete, she said.
For the second part, a citizens committee with representatives from homeowners, mining companies and others will develop goals for the area.
The committee will decide, for example, whether it's more important to protect mineral resources or land for residential development, she said.
The group also will determine alternatives for the land. Members might consider limiting mining operations or transferring development rights out of the area, Conaway said.
The third part of the plan will be the development of policy and laws to implement the plan, she said.