Lonely opponents of quarry now have company

August 07, 1994|By Bruce Reid | Bruce Reid,Sun Staff Writer

Jarrett Lyons says he's been fighting a good fight for more than 10 years against Arundel Sand and Gravel Co.'s quarry operation near Havre de Grace.

Mr. Lyons and fellow residents of the Meadowvale community have complained about zoning violations, truck traffic, blasting, huge dirt piles and the effect on property values.

Over the years, Mr. Lyons, president of the Northwest Neighborhood Association, says he and his neighbors have been battling alone. Now, as Arundel seeks permission to expand its operation to 400 acres in the coming years, the Meadowvale residents have lots of company.

The same concerns and a few new ones are at issue in the expansion debate. Neighboring communities such as Susquehanna Hills and Grave Harbour want to be heard.

"All we ask is that they strictly adhere to the zoning agreements," Mr. Lyons said.

In the past, he said, Arundel managers have broken promises and defied zoning restrictions, including the disposal of waste dirt inside a buffer zone.

County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann says residents who are concerned about the quarry's expansion will have a voice. She is forming an ad hoc work group -- of representatives from the affected communities, the quarry company, and local and state government agencies -- to try to hammer out compromises.

"Our philosophy has been to bring the parties together early on, before we get to confrontations," Mrs. Rehrmann said last week.

The group is to begin meeting later this month or in early September, she said.

Officials at Arundel Sand and Gravel, which was purchased in 1988 by Florida Rock Industries of Jacksonville, Fla., say they are reserving most comment on the residents' concerns until the working group can begin discussing them.

"The company is looking forward to working with the task force to mitigate the concerns of the community," said George B. Brewer, operations manager for Arundel Corp., which runs three quarries in Maryland.

Mr. Brewer said the permit process for the quarry expansion could take at least two years.

The Havre de Grace quarry, which has been worked periodically since about 1900, supplies stone aggregate for concrete, asphalt and road beds.

The quarry, which lies just upstream of the Interstate 95 bridge over the Susquehanna River, employs 46 people.

Many of the neighboring homes date to the 1950s and '60s. Some, such as those in Grace Harbour and Bayview Estates, are new.

Residents in the Susquehanna Hills community along Lapidum Road are most concerned about Arundel's plans to deposit huge dirt piles -- some as high as 132 feet -- formed from waste from mining operations, along the river.

At present, Susquehanna Hills residents can look across Lapidum Road and see the Cecil County shore of the Susquehanna River. They fear that view will be blocked by the waste material.

Rehrmann administration officials say they will explore whether waste dirt, called "overburden," can be used as landfill cover or as fill elsewhere in the county.

"Can you reclaim some other areas of the county that need it? That's what the task force will look at," said Robert N. Hockaday Jr., the Rehrmann administration's director of governmental and community relations.

Susquehanna Hills residents also wonder whether blasting, which some say occurs daily, will cause their private wells to fail. So far, county officials say, there is no evidence that blasting has harmed the wells.

Nevertheless, Mr. Lyons, the Meadowvale resident, said he has grown cynical from years of squabbling over the quarry operations. Despite Arundel's expressed desire to work with the residents, he said he wonders whether the company will deliver what it promises.

"They are concerned with only one thing, and that's the bottom line," Mr. Lyons said. "They are not really concerned with the neighborhood."

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