A county committee's plan to designate land for mining would make ittoo easy for companies to get zoning approval for new quarries, a New Windsor citizen group says.
Under the mining committee's proposal, "The only question for future generations is what kind of mine goes in," David Duree, a spokesman for the New Windsor Community Action Project, said Wednesday. "There's got to be a level playing field forfuture generations."
But members of the Mineral Resource Advisory Committee said theirplan protects county residents and would help prevent what happened in New Windsor, where homes were built near an intended quarry area.
The committee is composed of nine residents appointed by the county Planning Commission. It has worked with the county planning staff since January to develop a plan for dealing with mineral resources.
Members discussed Wednesday a report they will present to the Planning Commission and the Board of Commissioners on June 3. The committee will meet May 29 to finalize the report, which must be approved by the two boards.
The panel recommends that "Mineral Resource Overlay" zones be established to show where valuable minerals lie and wheremining would have little impact on the surrounding community and environment.
The zone would not include all mineral resources in the county, but would include more than the sites currently designated for mining, staff members said.
The county's most plentiful mineral resource -- marble -- is concentrated in the Wakefield Valley area, where two companies mine and a third wants to begin.
There are about 4,200 acres in the area containing marble that could be mined, but much of the land already has been developed or preserved, leaving about 1,600 acres, the committee's report says.
The county would hirea consultant to help determine criteria for deciding where an MRO zone would be, said K. Marlene Conaway, planning department bureau chief. The county might stipulate, for example, that there be enough mineral to make it economically feasible to mine, that there be enough land for a buffer area or that the mineral not be under a town, she said.
The county would sponsor public hearings for citizen input before MRO zones would be designated, Conaway said.
The committee alsorecommends that a Mineral Resources Commission be formed to deal with compliance issues and complaints from residents.
The commission would have five to seven members, including residents who live near quarries, representatives of the mining companies and citizens at large, the committee report says.
Later this year, the committee will issue a report outlining laws needed to implement the proposal, Conaway said.
Currently, mining is allowed in areas zoned for agricultural, business and industrial uses after the company has received permission from the county Board of Zoning Appeals. Zoning law also designates an "Agriculture Extractive" zone where marble mining or agriculture are allowed.
NEWCAP would rather have "preservation overlay zones" in which land would be preserved for mining, but not guaranteedfor that use, Duree said.
The decision about whether land can be mined should be made when a company presents a proposal to the county, said NEWCAP member Linda Cunfer. The county then could evaluate theplan under existing conditions, she said.
Mining companies submit"the best proposals" when they don't have a guarantee they can mine on a piece of land, Duree said.
Committee member Georgia Hoff, a New Windsor resident and real estate agent, said the MRO zone could definitively tell the public where mining could occur. If people knew, they could decide whether to live near the zone, she said.
"I think the public is far more protected in knowing what's there," she said.
Under NEWCAP's suggestion, people would not know for sure whether a quarry would be built in a certain area, Hoff said.
"You are leaving the public so open," she said.
Frederick K. Teeter Sr. of Westminster, a committee member who works for The Arundel Corp., said the committee's plan would make the process for applying for permission to mine in the county more understandable.