The Lehigh Portland Cement Co. has traveled a rocky road to get permission to dig a quarry outside New Windsor.
The company needs a new supply of limestone to maintain a steady stream of raw materials tomake cement.
But many area residents are worried a new quarry would wreak havoc with their water supply, create sinkholes and ruin their views of the countryside.
"I don't think there is such a peaceful thing as coexistence," Laura Decker of New Windsor said earlier this year at a public hearing.
Lehigh will begin preparation of the quarry site later this year after three years of applications, studies and public hearings at the state and county levels.
Throughout the process, citizens have complained, protested and offered alternatives. The New Windsor Community Action Project, which is active in rural planning and mining issues, has been in the forefront of the debate.
The group represents about 300 people in the Wakefield Valley area, the mineral-rich land surrounding New Windsor and extending to Westminster and Union Bridge. Many residents moved to Carroll from other counties and said they were not aware that Lehigh owned the property and had plans to mine it.
Lehigh owns 750 acres between Route 31 and Old NewWindsor Road, about two miles southwest of New Windsor. The company has owned the land since the mid-1950s, Plant Manager David H. Roush said.
Last October, after Lehigh had received all necessary state permits, the county Planning and Zoning Commission allowed the company to mine 66 acres.
NEWCAP members wanted to delay approval, saying the county should have a comprehensive mining plan first.
"To plan for a quarry without a mining plan is premature," David Duree, a spokesman for NEWCAP, said last year.
Later this year, Lehigh will begin site preparation on the first phase of the project, a 186-acre plot with a 66-acre quarry. The company has plans to expand to about 300 acres, including a 132-acre pit, but Roush said decisions about expansion couldn't be made until the first phase was complete.
The company needs the new pit because its 85-acre Union Bridge quarry will be depleted in about 17 years, Roush said. The company opened the quarry in 1929.
The county expects to approve a mining plan in November, a year after the county commissioners imposed a moratorium on building within a half-mile radius of the three mining areas.
A committee of nine county residents has been working with the county's planning staff since January to write a mining plan to balance the interests of mining companies and nearby residents.
As of July 1, residents are protected from possible damage because of a new state law that presumes mining companies liable for water supply depletions within an area determined by the state Department of Natural Resources. NEWCAP had lobbied for the law for several years.
The day the law took effect, however, the Maryland Aggregates Association Inc. filed alawsuit to have the law declared unconstitutional. Lehigh and the other two mining companies that own land in Carroll are association members. Action on the lawsuit is pending.
The two other mining companies in the county are:
* Genstar Stone Products Co., which operates two quarries in the Wakefield Valley, measuring 11 acres and 16 acres. The company has plans to join the two pits and dig a third. Genstar makes and sells a variety of stone products for building roads, roofs and driveways, among other things.
* The Arundel Corp., basedin Towson, Baltimore County, owns 380 acres adjacent to Genstar and wants to dig a quarry, but its efforts to get permission from the county have been mired in court since 1988. The company sells ready-mixed concrete, sand, gravel, crushed stone and other products used in construction.