Members of the sand and gravel industry walked away disappointed Monday night after the County Council refused to substantially soften a bill regulating their business.
Though council members complied with the industry's request to begin operations at 6 a.m., they approved more restrictive noise controls and refused to permit rock-crushingequipment in agricultural/residential zones.
"We got the earlier hours, but the industry is able to operate around the clock right now as long as we don't disturb the neighbors," said William Natter, president of Natter Services Inc., an Annapolis sand and gravel firm. "This is a big loss."
The bill, sponsored byCouncil Chairwoman Virginia P. Clagett, D-West River, prohibits sandand gravel operators from working after 5 p.m., as they do now. Thisrestriction poses a real threat to the industry, especially if the economy improves, Natter said.
The sound restrictions, which prohibit the maximum noise level from exceeding 60 decibels within 1,000 feet of a dwelling, are severe enough that the industry may not be ableto live with them, Natter said.
Residents who live near sand and gravel operations were pleased with the council's decisions. "It's a fair trade-off," said Peter Perry of Harwood, who serves with Natter on a council-appointed committee to study the industry.
The council approved 17 amendments to the sand and gravel bill, many of them technical. An amendment allowing Saturday off-site sales, sponsored by Councilwoman Diane R. Evans, R-Arnold, was held for further study. The crusher amendment, also sponsored by Evans, was defeated, 4-3.
Apublic hearing on the amended bill will be held April 15.
Of the seven council members, Diane R. Evans, R-Arnold, and George F. Bachman, D-Linthicum, were most sympathetic to industry. They were the onlycouncil members who voted against Clagett's amendment to reduce the sound levels in excavation areas within 1,000 feet of a home.
And,along with Councilman Carl G. "Dutch" Holland, R-Pasadena, they voted in favor of the unsuccessful amendment allowing crushers.
"If the industry can't remain competitive, my fear truly is that people will lose jobs," Evans said.
As for environmental concerns voiced by citizens during the first public hearing on the bill two weeks ago, Evans said there is no evidence that her amendment would harm plants and wildlife. She argued that a strong industrial base actually benefits the environment.
"If the economy doesn't remain strong, I don'tthink any governmental body is going to have the money to enforce environmental (laws)," Evans said.
Citizens are trying to "coexist" with the sand and gravel industry, not put it out of business, Perry said.
Natter estimates 300 people are employed by Anne Arundel's 31 mining and processing operations, with another 700 involved in the trucking end of the business. About $6 million worth of aggregate material is produced here annually.
A moratorium on applications for new mining operations, most of which are found along the Patuxent River in the southern and western portions of the county, has been in effect for a year and will remain until July 1.
Clagett's bill will radically change the way the excavation industry is regulated here byallowing the county to oversee mining operations. The state now regulates surface mining, and has been criticized for doing a poor job.
In other action, the council:
* Changed a proposed bill raising the retirement age for appointed and elected officials from 50 to 60.The bill applies to employees hired as of Dec. 1.
* Extended a moratorium on new rubble landfills until Oct. 23 while permanent regulatory legislation is drafted.
* Introduced a bill raising the cost of dog licenses and setting stricter standards for care and treatmentof animals.
A public hearing is scheduled April 15.