Where the asphalt grows green

First step: Building asphalt plant on a Kent County farm is far from a done deal

November 12, 1999

STRANGE things are sprouting in Marylands farm fields. Like an asphalt plant in a Kent County cornfield. Like a golf course on a Carroll County farm. Like mobile communication towers all over the countryside.

And, of course, the burgeoning crops of houses and subdivisions on once green acres.

Less land is needed these days for agricultural production; other uses are more lucrative -- for the developer and the county treasury. And for local employment. So in spite of high-sounding rhetoric about farmland preservation by Maryland and the counties, the states agricultural open spaces continue to shrink.

Recent approval by Kent County government of a hot-mix asphalt plant next to farms and near the headwaters of Swantown Creek has raised the hackles of neighbors and environmentalists.

FOR THE RECORD - A Nov. 12 editorial erroneously stated that Kent County commissioners last July rezoned a farm for industrial use. In fact, the commissioners voted to amend the existing industrial zoning on the land. Also, an asphalt plant that would close is in Queen Anne's County, not Somerset County. The Sun regrets the errors.

The 225-acre farm was rezoned as an industrial district by the Kent County commissioners back in July. The county planning board this month approved an asphalt plant planned for the site by Eastern Shore paving contractor David C. Bramble.

Three hundred good jobs are at stake, Mr. Bramble advised. Of course, those jobs will mostly come at the expense of lower Somerset County, from which he will move the plant to eastern Kent. Moreover, Maryland loses the equivalent of about 30,000 acres of farmland each year to development and alternative use. Do we really need more for this purpose?

The livelihoods of others may be harmed by this proposed noisome manufacturing facility.

Opponents also worry about loss of wetlands and salamanders and water pollution. One adjacent farmer fears his dairy herds milk will be affected.

The planning body approval in Kent is only one of the necessary steps to see the project to completion. Citizen groups have filed lawsuits challenging the decision.

Water supply and wetlands and pollution discharge approvals are needed and should be studied very carefully before they are granted. Plans for other controversial projects have fallen through despite county plans; this is only the beginning.

The way is far from paved for the asphalt plant in an Eastern Shore cornfield.

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