State grants permit for 545-acre quarry

Some neighbors question environmental impact

January 25, 2004|By Liz F. Kay | Liz F. Kay,SUN STAFF

More than a decade after it was proposed, a plan to mine an ingredient for roadways between Interstate 95 and U.S. 1 in Jessup has received crucial state approvals.

Chase Mining LLC received a surface-mining permit from the Maryland Department of the Environment last month for a quarry and was given a permit this month to work in a wetlands area.

"We're delighted to be able to do what we've been trying to do for over 10 years," said Caleb Gould, the son of Washington parking lot magnate and Howard County resident Kingdon Gould Jr.

Nearby residents say they are concerned about environmental effects, and they intend to oppose plans to build additional operations such as concrete and asphalt plants.

The county Board of Appeals granted Chase permission to mine in 1997, after months of public hearings. The board will review the project every five years until its permits expire, 25 years after work begins.

Caleb Gould said the MDE approached his family when it identified a deposit of Baltimore gabbro, a dark stone used to make asphalt pavement. He said Chase expects to mine 1 million to 2 million tons of stone annually.

"We'll certainly begin developing the site within the next couple of weeks," Gould said, although he estimated it will be two years before Chase Mining begins to extract stone for commercial purposes.

"They've got a lot of site work to do before they get into the blasting and quarrying," said Harold T. Bernadzikowski, a planning supervisor in the land development division of the Department of Planning and Zoning.

Gould said sand and gravel were mined on the Chase property before the construction of I-95. The property is valuable as a source of gabbro in part because it is vacant. It isn't feasible to extract mineral deposits under homes.

In 1991, the Gould family contacted residents around the approximately 545 acres about a plan to open a quarry bounded by Mission Road, the CSX railroad tracks and businesses along U.S. 1.

Gould said Chase helped set up the Ridgelys Run Community Association with volunteers from neighborhoods to negotiate terms for the residents.

In addition to limiting blasting, traffic and the hours of operation, the Goulds agreed to build a 5,000-square-foot community center before the quarry opened and to contribute 5 cents per ton of marketable stone toward the center's programs.

"It wasn't until after that agreement had been finalized that we even submitted our first request to the county," Gould said.

"That was the first order of business, for us to come to an agreement with the community, or at least the majority of the community, to support the project before we submitted," he said.

"I just wish this had gone a lot quicker than this. I'd like to see the lake in my lifetime," said Ridgelys Run President Gary Prestianni. The group hasn't had a meeting in four to five years, he said.

Amenities, such as the community center, are sorely needed, he said. "There's not a lot in the community for kids to do," Prestianni said.

That's why Mission Road resident Merle Green supported the plan. "I hope they stick with that," he said.

His grandson, Brian Green II, is eager to see the community center and its basketball court, he said.

Prestianni said a quarry, although not ideal, would be better than some of the uses allowed under the property's light industrial zoning, such as a 24-hour-a-day trucking terminal.

In addition to concern about wells, dust and other environmental factors, some residents contend that the Ridgelys Run group did not represent them.

Susan Gorel, who bought her Mission Road house in 1997, said no one contacted her family to get input, though the group was bargaining in her name.

"Even when we moved in, we weren't afforded an opportunity to join the association," she said.

Some residents who opposed the project have moved away. Others refused to be quoted for this article, saying they had been threatened with lawsuits for speaking out and that others had been offered country club memberships and other bonuses in exchange for their support.

Gould dismissed that allegation as a "complete fabrication."

"Nobody's ever been propositioned or threatened," he said.

Environmental concerns top Diana M. Eignor's reasons for opposing the project.

"It's a big chunk of land, don't get me wrong, so you're protected by a bunch of acres. But it's still a residential neighborhood," the Cedar Villa Heights resident said.

People are also worried about the integrity of their foundations and wells, she said.

As a "pre-emptive strike," Eignor said, she has gathered signatures for a petition opposing a proposed asphalt plant that requires separate MDE approvals.

She also worries that traffic from the quarry would make it difficult to get to her community from U.S. 1.

Gorel and Eignor said that additional air quality monitoring might be more useful than the community building.

"I just hope they hold to their commitment to minimize the impact to the community and the area," Gorel said.

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