Mining Plan Ignores Residents' Concerns, Critics Say

Public Hearing On Citizens Committee's Proposal Draws 120 People

December 18, 1991|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Staff writer

UNIONTOWN — New Windsor resident Linda Moreau spoke out at a public hearing for the first time in her life last night. The topic was the county's proposed mining plan, and her concern was her $200,000 home.

"I've fallen victim to the phrase 'Let the buyer beware,' " she said. "I should've done my homework."

Since March, Moreau has lived near an area earmarked in the plan for mining, but she wasn't aware of that when she moved there. She said she spent several weeks reading the proposed plan, which is about 50 pages long.

She came to this conclusion: "This is a mineral resource protection plan. It says very little about my rights and the citizens rights of Carroll County. It addresses them on the surface, but it doesn't begin to go far enough."

Many of the 120 or so peoplein the audience at Francis Scott Key High School agreed. Residents worry that mining operations would worsen traffic, increase noise and reduce property values.

They applauded when state Delegate RichardDixon, D-Carroll, said, "This is a mining plan and a mining plan only. One of the things the report is supposed to do is protect citizens. It doesn't do that."

The plan was drawn up over 10 months by a nine-member citizens committee with assistance from the county planning staff. The document will become part of the county master plan and will dictate where mining may occur.

The plan is designed to balance the interests of residents and mining companies and minimize the environmental impact of mining.

It designates areas in the Westminster-New Windsor-Union Bridge area where minerals lie and where development that would pre-empt mining should be banned.

The public hearing last night was to allow citizens a chance to give formal comment to the county Planning and Zoning Commission. The commission will make a recommendation to the county commissioners.

Mining company officials generally support the plan. They and their employees and suppliers testified that the industry provides a vital economic base for the county.

The stone and cement products produced by mining companies help improve the quality of life for residents, said David H. Roush, plant manager at Lehigh Portland Cement Co. in Union Bridge.

"We who make things . . . are at the roots of our quality of life," hesaid. "We must recognize our future is inexorably intertwined with the prudent, reasonable use of our natural resources."

James Mason,an operations manager for Genstar Stone Products Co., said he likes the plan, but wants to see changes in hours of operation and landscaping.

New Windsor farmer Parker Smith, whose land is within a half-mile of a mining area, also supports the plan.

"We must learn as people to live together and work together and use the resources at ourhands," he said

Rebecca Harman, a New Windsor councilwoman, said she supports the plan because it's important to support an industry that provides jobs for a lot of people and a vital product.

Linda Cunfer, chairwoman the New Windsor Community Action Project, said the 300 members of her group are not trying to shut down the mining companies. Residents want protections and written criteria before mining companies are given permission to dig.

The plan has "the potential to make Carroll County the limestone capital of Maryland," she said.

The plan recommends that "Mineral Resource Overlay" zones be established to show where valuable minerals lie and where mining would have little impact on the surrounding community.

NEWCAP would rather have "preservation overlay zones" in which land would be preserved for mining, but not guaranteed for that use.

The decision about whether land can be mined should be made when a company presents a proposal to the county. The county then could evaluate the plan under existing conditions, Cunfer said.

Studies have found about 4,000 acres of Wakefield marble with economic value in Carroll. About 1,600 acrescould be mined, the plan states.

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