County Board of Zoning Appeals has postponed a...


April 12, 1996

THE CARROLL County Board of Zoning Appeals has postponed a hearing on a planned concrete batch plant in Finksburg but that won't make its decision any easier. Issues of watershed protection, economic development, homeowner equity and zoning history are in striking conflict.

But the board would be unwise to approve the application of Toma Concrete & Materials Co., given the facility's proximity to the Liberty Reservoir and the watershed conservation district. The quality of the metropolitan drinking water supply would be compromised by locating a ready-mix concrete plant on the site.

The area is zoned general industrial, grandfathered in when Baltimore City acquired land for the reservoir four decades ago. The current owner took over a defunct distillery and has operated small storage terminals without the kind of adverse environmental impact that is anticipated from the concrete mixing plant. The terminals have been indoor facilities, in contrast to the proposed outside complex of cement silos, conveyors and water tanks.

Furthermore, it is questionable just how much economic benefit would come to the county in return: a half-dozen trucking and plant jobs would be created. And if the facility grows, as it likely must do to become economically viable, the nuisance and environmental effects would increase dramatically.

Also to be considered is the impact on the value of homes in the neighboring subdivisions. Noise, traffic and dust will decrease property values, and thus lower tax revenues from these attractive, comfortable subdivisions. The net gain for county coffers from approval of the plant would appear to be minimal.

This is not a case of choosing new housing over industry, but of established homes and taxpayers whose loss will be felt by the county. The reason for requiring a hearing by the zoning appeals board is that a concrete plant is not entitled to automatic approval on that industrial-zoned property.

The zoning code makes this kind of facility a conditional use that must be evaluated for its acceptability. That's especially appropriate in this case, with concerns about the integrity of the water supply. It is, we might suggest, a concrete example of how the board should use its better judgment in denying this application.

Pub Date: 4/12/96

A proposal that hardly seems concrete; Planned Finksburg plant would endanger water supply, neighborhoods.

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