An asphalt manufacturer, seeking permission to expand its 35-year-old gravel mining business, insisted yesterday it has answered the noise and traffic concerns of its Gambrills neighbors.
But residents told a county hearing officer that they still oppose the request by BBSS Inc., which operates the Reliable Asphalt plant at Route 3 and Brickhead Road, to mine another 72 acres between Brickhead and Evergreen roads.
Willis Montgomery, 70, who lives on Evergreen Road, complained that his community is being encircled by "these big holes," referring to BBSS' existing 130-acre sand and gravel operation and other mines in the vicinity.
"We're being fenced in" by the clanging noise of tailgates shutting, Mr. Montgomery said. "Bam, bam, bam. They claim it's quiet. It's not quiet."
Anthony Christhilf, an attorney for BBSS, asked hearing officer Roger Perkins to change his client's property's zoning from residential to an agricultural use that allows mining. He also asked Mr. Perkins to issue the special-exception approval needed under that zoning.
This is the second attempt by BBSS to win approval of its expansion plans. An administrative hearing officer denied the company a zoning variance in May that would have allowed it to mine the property without having to change the zoning.
Through no fault of its own, Mr. Christhilf argued yesterday, the County Council made a mistake during the last comprehensive rezoning in 1989 when it left the property in the high-use residential zone, which does not allow for mining.
Council members simply were unaware of the mineral resources -- which generally are targeted for special treatment by the county's General Development Plan -- buried there, he said.
The council also was unaware of the special accommodations made in the past for BBSS, which needs a steady supply of sand and gravel for its asphalt plant, Mr. Christhilf said.
Kevin Dooley, of the county Office of Planning and Zoning, said his agency opposes the new request -- as it did last year's proposal. He cited, just as residents did, the potential for excess noise and traffic.
But Mr. Christhilf said potential for noise and traffic is greater if the expansion request is denied. Currently, 50 percent of the asphalt plant's raw materials come from the existing gravel mine, but that supply is nearly exhausted, he said.
Without the expansion, the company will be forced to import sand and gravel from other sites, he said.
Hoping to disarm the residents, BBSS officials said there will be no access from, and therefore no new truck traffic on, Evergreen Road. They also have promised a variety of buffers and berms around the facility to protect the residents from noise and any unsightly views.
The Greater Odenton Improvement Association and the Greater Gambrills Improvement Association opposed the plan.
The Greater Crofton Council, which represents a number of apartments and town houses within view of the mine, endorsed the expansion, particularly applauding the creation of the berms.
Norman Harvey, vice president of the Greater Gambrills Improvement Association, said his neighbors on Evergreen Road will be the most affected by the expansion, calling it a "devastating blow."
"A change in the zoning would seriously alter the neighborhood into something it's not," Mr. Harvey said, "an industrial area."
The hearing officer said he would render a decision within 40 days.