Anne Arundel's sand and gravel operators say they face financial ruin if the County Council doesn't soften a tough new bill governing the excavation industry.
Representatives of the county's 31 sand and gravel firms who packed the council chambers Monday night said they will support the new county regulations -- if the council makes key changes regarding the permitting process, hours of operation and the kind of machinery that can be used on site.
"It's a very tough bill," said William Natter, president of Natter Services Inc., an Annapolis sand and gravel firm. "Can we live withthis law? Probably not as it is written. As amended? Yes."
Natterserved on the council-appointed committee that drafted a 1989 reporton the sand and gravel industry. The bill now before the council, sponsored by Council Chairwoman Virginia P. Clagett, D-West River, was based on that report.
Anne Arundel's sand and gravel pits are found mostly in south and west county along the Patuxent River. Most are allowed as special zoning exceptions in residential/agricultural zones.
Last year, the council imposed a moratorium on applications fornew mining operations after citizens complained that the industry was harming the environment and posing a nuisance to homeowners. The council Monday extended the ban until July 1.
Clagett's bill allows the county to oversee surface mining operations. The state now regulates surface mining -- and is doing a poor job, many critics charge.
Current county surface mining regulations are "extremely weak," Clagett said. Variances to the requirement for a 1,000-foot buffer between mining operations and homes have been granted in three-fourths of the cases that have gone through the zoning process, she said.
Clagett's bill provides for daily county inspections, to be paid for by the industry; imposes noise and sight restrictions within 1,000 feet of a home; and limits excavation to within 300 feet of a home unless the homeowner and the county agree otherwise.
The bill gives the county authority to penalize violators.
Operators objected strongly to the bill's restriction of hours of operation to 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays though Fridays and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays. The industry's workday typically begins at 6 a.m., they said.
"By putting these times in, you are eliminating us from working on a lot of jobs," said Peter Hoffman of Hoffman Enterprises Inc. of Crofton. "You are going to put usout of business."
Kathy Fleshman, an Odenton resident, said noise from a nearby surface mining operation starts around 5:30 a.m., when the trucks start lining up with their radios blaring.
"I think the industry is more interested in greed than in need," she told the council.
Citizens also objected to the industry's wish to use a "crusher" for breaking rock down into smaller pieces at processing sites in residential/agricultural zones. The bill prohibits crushers except in heavy industrial districts.
Council members wouldn't say whether they will sponsor amendments to change the hours of operation and allow crushers. "It's certainly worth looking into," said Councilwoman Diane R. Evans.