ANNAPOLIS — The state's highest court has ruled that county administrators erredwhen retroactively applying a new zoning law to a mining company's plans for a limestone quarry.
The ruling, released Thursday, ends athree-year legal battle waged by The Arundel Corp. to try to get permission to dig a quarry in Wakefield Valley.
"It's nice to have the highest court in the state rule in favor of obeying the law," said George B. Brewer, president of the Maryland Aggregates Group at Arundel, based in Sparks, Baltimore County.
The Court of Appeals, in a decision written by Judge Lawrence F. Rodowsky, said the matter should be returned to the county Board of Zoning Appeals for a hearing.
The court, which heard arguments in the case last March, also said Ordinance T-75, which was adopted seven months after Arundel had applied in 1987 for permission to mine, should not be applied to the company's application.
The judge wrote that the ordinance did not specify that it should be applied retroactively.
The ordinance would require that Arundel submit detailed information about mining plans and the effects of operations on the neighborhood and water supplies before the county decided whether to allow mining on the site.
Compiling that information would cost Arundel at least $500,000, said its attorney, William B. Dulany of Westminster.
The ordinance "put the cart before the horse," Dulany said.
A Carroll Circuit Court judge had issued the same ruling in July 1989. The county appealed to the Court of Special Appeals, which ruled in April 1990 that Arundel should comply with the law. Arundel then took the case to the Court of Appeals.
Arundel owns 390 acres of land in Medford where it wants to mine for limestone. The land is zoned for agriculture, so Arundel must get a conditional-use permit from the Board of Zoning Appeals before mining can begin.
The land is on Nicodemus Road adjacent to property being mined by Genstar Stone Products Co.
Assistant County Attorney Laurell E. Taylor said the purpose of T-75 was to give the zoning board more information before it made adecision about whether to allow mining.
The ordinance was not a change in the standards the board would apply, but simply a change in procedure, she argued before the court last spring.
Taylor and County Attorney Charles W. "Chuck" Thompson could not be reached for comment Friday.
If the county zoning board gives Arundel permission to mine, the company could not start work at the site for at least twoyears because that's how long the state permitting process takes, Brewer said.
By then, the county will have a comprehensive mineral mining plan, which will govern what areas are mined and will hold mining companies to certain standards.
This fall, the Carroll Board ofCounty Commissioners is expected to approve the plan, which is beingwritten by a panel of citizens.
Brewer said he agrees with the plan as it's being developed, and said Arundel would comply with the plan when the company begins work on the quarry.