ANNAPOLIS — A mining company that wants to dig a limestone quarry in Wakefield Valley took its zoning dispute with the county to the state's highest court yesterday.
The Maryland Court of Appeals heard oral arguments from The Arundel Corp. and Carroll County in a case that is 3 yearsold.
Arundel says a zoning law adopted by the county in 1988 is "grossly unfair" and should not be applied to the company. Arundel would have to spend at least $500,000 to comply with the law and still wouldn't have a guarantee it could mine, its attorney said.
The company also argued the law is invalid because it invades the state's domain to oversee such matters, attorney William B. Dulany of Westminster said.
The county says Arundel must comply with the law even though it was passed after the Baltimore County-based company had applied forpermission to mine on agricultural land. The law requires companies that want to mine to submit detailed information about their plans, including the effects of their operations on neighborhood and water supplies.
Tuesday, lawyers for both sides gave 20-minute arguments before seven judges . The court will issue a written decision, but is not bound by a deadline.
George B. Brewer, president of Arundel's Maryland Aggregates Group, said he hopes the decision will come quickly. He attended the hearing with Johnny Johnsson, director of planning for the Sparks-based company.
The case began after Arundel askedthe county for a conditional-use permit to mine about 380 acres it owns in Medford. The land is on Nicodemus Road near property being mined by Genstar Stone Products Co. Mining is permitted
on agricultural land if the Carroll Board of Zoning Appeals gives its consent.
The Wakefield Valley area is rich in limestone. The Lehigh Portland Cement Co., which mines in the Union Bridge area, also has plans to dig a quarry near New Windsor.
Arundel originally submitted its application for permission to mine in August 1987 and amended it in February 1988, at the request of the zoning board. In March 1988, the county adopted Ordinance T-75, which required companies to submit detailed information.
In a brief filed with the high court, Dulany calledthe law "onerous, vague and burdensome" and said it was "aimed at one particular industry."
Assistant County Attorney Laurell E. Taylor said the purpose of the law is to give the zoning board more information before it makes a decision as to whether to grant a conditional-use permit. The information would be part of the public record, she said.
Associate Judge Charles Orth asked whether it is fair to aska company to go to such expense without a guarantee that it could mine. Taylor said a company applying to mine would have to give similarinformation, but not to the extent required by state agencies.
Associate Judge John F. McAuliffe asked whether the County Commissioners had intended T-75 to be applied retroactively to Arundel. Taylor said they did, because the law simply was a change in the application process, not a change in the standards the board would use to make a decision.
"The ordinance does nothing to diminish or enhance any applicant's opportunity to engage in quarrying as a conditional use," Taylor wrote in her brief.
Dulany said the county does not have theexpertise to evaluate the information required in T-75.
"They're not really qualified to do it," he argued.
T-75 requires a mining company to submit a detailed site development plan that includes information on buffer areas, berms, landscaping, fences, roads, buildings, lighting, geology, land restoration, proposed truck routes, noise analysis, dust control measures and other environmental impacts.
After the zoning board rejected Arundel's application because it did not comply with the new law, Arundel appealed the decision to Carroll County Circuit Court. The court ruled in the company's favor, saying the law should not have been applied retroactively.
The county thenappealed to the state Court of Special Appeals, which ruled last spring that the company should comply with the law. Arundel again appealed, this time to the state's highest court.