The County Council, sitting as the Board of Zoning Appeals, will hear arguments Thursday on Columbia Gas Transmission Corp.'s request to build a natural gas compressor station near Jarrettsville.
The public hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the council's chambers in the Courthouse in Bel Air. Because of a large expected turnout, the council plans to immediately adjourn and reconvene the hearing at C. Milton Wright High School auditorium, said county planners.
The school is located on Route 543.
After the hearing, the council will remain at C. Milton Wright and conduct a special legislative session in place of its regularly scheduled meeting, which is usually convened at the council chambers.
The council is meeting Jan. 17 because of the Jan. 15 county holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday.
Columbia Gas, based in Charleston, W.Va., applied last spring for a special zoning exception to build the compressor station in an agricultural district.
E. Kelly Merritt, a company spokesman, has said the compressor station would allow the company to push more natural gas through its pipeline to meet the growing demand for fuel in the Northeast.
A county hearing examiner,in a 75-page opinion issued in December, denied the variance.
Hearing examiner William F. Casey ruled the compressor station was incompatible with thesurrounding residential and agricultural areas south of Jarrettsville.
The Board of Zoning Appeals will hear the company's appeal of that ruling Thursday.
Columbia Gas has proposed building a 6,000-square-foot compressor station on 30 acres off Rutledge Avenue. The $3.4 million facility would employ about 10 people.
County residents and Gov. William Donald Schaefer have opposed the compressor station proposal.
Schaefer wrote to the company in October, urging Columbia Gas to select another site.
Area residents have criticized the company's plans, arguing the facility might disturb water supplies, emit hazardous chemicals and open the area to further industrial development.
Merritt said the company has had no complaints about the 160 compressors it operates in its 10-state service area.
"Residentsin other areas have found us to be a good neighbor, operating our facilities safely and without intrusion," Merritt said.
"We will be a good neighbor in the Fallston area."