County hosts sur­face min­ing pub­lic hearing

Times-Record - - News - By ABBY AN­DREWS aan­drews@car­o­line­times­record.com

DENTON — Crit­ics of a pro­posed or­di­nance meant to es­tab­lish per­mit­ting re­quire­ments for min­eral ex­trac­tion fa­cil­i­ties in Car­o­line County said at a pub­lic hearing Tues­day, March 27, much of it is al­ready cov­ered by state and lo­cal laws, and other parts could set up the county for po­ten­tial le­gal trou­ble.

The com­mis­sion­ers put a oneyear mora­to­rium on is­su­ing new per­mits for min­eral ex­trac­tion, or sur­face min­ing, fa­cil­i­ties last May; since then, the pro­posed or­di­nance, which would up­date the county’s code of lo­cal laws, was de­vel­oped and passed along to the com­mis­sion­ers with the rec­om­men­da­tion of both the Car­o­line County Depart­ment of Plan­ning and Codes and the Car­o­line County Plan­ning Com­mis­sion.

The or­di­nance is sched­uled for a third read­ing and po­ten­tial en­act­ment at the com­mis­sion­ers’ next reg­u­lar meet­ing, at 6 p.m. Tues­day, April 10.

At the hearing, sev­eral in­dus­try rep­re­sen­ta­tives and their at­tor­neys said much of the per­mit­ting process de­scribed in the or­di­nance is al­ready cov­ered at the state and lo­cal level, and the vague lan­guage could lead to ex­pen­sive law­suits.

“With the ex­cep­tion of traf­fic im­pacts and hours of op­er­a­tion, the state has ju­ris­dic­tion over all daily op­er­a­tions tied to min­ing, and the process al­ready in place al­lows for in­put from mul­ti­ple agen­cies,” said Kyle Mur­ray, rep­re­sent­ing Chaney En­ter­prises, which has op­er­ated sur­face min­ing sites in the county for 14 years.

“The pro­posed leg­is­la­tion in­trudes on what (the Mary­land Depart­ment of the En­vi­ron­ment) mon­i­tors and reg­u­lates on a daily ba­sis,” Mur­ray said, “and the ma­jor­ity of is­sues can be dis­cussed and ad­dressed at the county level dur­ing the nor­mal special use ex­cep­tion process, with­out con­tra­dict­ing state law al­ready in place.”

Steven Hy­att, an An­napo­lis lawyer who rep­re­sents two min­ing op­er­a­tions in the county, said the or­di­nance does not have a time­line for the per­mit­ting process to which county agen­cies must ad­here.

“The pro­posed process, in­clud­ing the special use ex­cep­tion pro-

cess, would re­quire an ap­pli­cant’s site plan to be re­viewed at least four times by three dif­fer­ent county agen­cies,” Hy­att said. “Each time, the agency has the dis­cre­tion to make more mod­i­fi­ca­tions and re­quest more in­for­ma­tion, again with­out any time­frame at­tached to re­sponses — it could go on in­def­i­nitely.”

Hy­att and Denton-based lawyer Anne Ogle­tree pointed out the 200ft. buf­fer be­tween min­ing op­er­a­tions and neigh­bor­ing prop­er­ties re­quired by the or­di­nance could con­flict with a state law re­quir­ing lo­cal ju­ris­dic­tions to en­sure min­eral re­sources are avail­able for ex­trac­tion to meet lo­cal and re­gional de­mand.

“What you’ve pro­posed is to re­move by way of the 200-ft. buf­fer mil­lions of tons of mine­able ground,” Hy­att said. “You will be hard-pressed to jus­tify it in pub­lic interest or gen­eral safety when the state ac­cepts a 25-ft. buf­fer. It’s tak­ing away all eco­nomic value from that land, to­tal­ing mil­lions of dol­lars.”

Skip Gar­diner, of An­napo­lis, who owns mul­ti­ple prop­er­ties in Car­o­line and em­ploys more than 40 peo­ple in the in­dus­try, also crit­i­cized the lack of a time­line for the ap­proval process, the 200-ft. buf­fer re­quire­ment and other ob­jec­tives that are just “some­one’s de­ci­sion to be de­ter­mined.”

“This is an open-ended piece of leg­is­la­tion writ­ten by a big-time law firm,” Gar­diner said. “This is only go­ing to help the at­tor­ney’s pock­et­book be­cause there’s a lot of lan­guage here that could have some se­ri­ous im­pli­ca­tions and long-run­ning le­gal bat­tles go­ing forward.”

Mike David­son, who has been min­ing in the county since the 1960s, asked why the or­di­nance was even needed when the reg­u­la­tions al­ready in place seem to be work­ing.

“Con­sider this deeply,” David­son said of the or­di­nance. “What you al­ready had in place was work­ing very well; why would you change it?”

David Bram­ble, who is ac­tively min­ing one of three prop­er­ties he owns in the county, said the 200-ft. buf­fer would leave a lot of wasted sand on his prop­erty.

“The or­di­nance is over­board,” Bram­ble said. “What you’ve got now is work­ing.”

Richard Gor­leski, who lives on Log Cabin Road, near the site of Schus­ter Con­crete’s pro­posed sur­face min­ing fa­cil­ity that led to the cur­rent mora­to­rium, said he sup­ports the in­dus­try, but not in res­i­den­tial ar­eas like his.

“I don’t want to see an in­dus­trial plant in front of my house,” Gor­leski said. “I sup­port sand com­pa­nies, but just don’t put them in our sub­di­vi­sions.”

Gor­leski called the or­di­nance “fan­tas­tic,” ex­cept for a sec­tion that would al­low the wash plant lo­ca­tion to change dur­ing the ap­proval process.

Danny Schus­ter, of Schus­ter Con­crete, said if his com­pany could mine in Car­o­line County, rather than con­tin­u­ing to buy sand from a Bridgeville, Del.-based sup­plier, it would only have to haul the sand over three miles of county roads, in­stead of 23 miles, to get to its clos­est con­crete plant.

Schus­ter said the peo­ple op­posed to his com­pany’s pro­posed de­vel­op­ment have some good points, but they do not seem to have a plan for what hap­pens if the min­ing in­dus­try is not de­vel­oped in Car­o­line County.

“Our tax rate for a sand ex­trac­tion fa­cil­ity is over 60 times that of agri­cul­tural use,” Schus­ter said. “It’s im­por­tant to look at where the county will be in 20 years if we don’t bring in qual­ity peo­ple in qual­ity in­dus­tries to de­velop a bet­ter tax base.”

Mur­ray said over­reg­u­la­tion of the in­dus­try and lim­it­ing ac­cess to min­er­als risks com­pa­nies mov­ing else­where, which would elim­i­nate the tax rev­enue for Car­o­line County.

“If done re­spon­si­bly and un­der the gov­er­nance of MDE, min­ing can and will con­tinue to be a strong rev­enue stream for the county, of­fer­ing jobs and lo­cal ma­te­rial for cit­i­zens,” Mur­ray said.

David­son said the in­dus­try has prob­a­bly cre­ated more than 2,000 jobs in the county, di­rectly and indi­rectly.

“We spend $6,000 a month on (truck) parts,” David­son said of his op­er­a­tion “(The parts sup­pli­ers) need that busi­ness.”

Brad Hutchi­son, of Golds­boro, said he com­mutes 1.5 hours each way ev­ery day for a job in the in­dus­try, and would wel­come more op­por­tu­ni­ties closer to home.

“I wouldn’t have to travel as far to make my salar y, and I could spend more time with my fam­ily,” Hutchi­son said.

Ed Richards, of Denton, said the or­di­nance should re­quire a pub­lic hearing dur­ing the plan­ning process; the only re­quired hearing is af­ter the plan­ning process is com­plete.

“There is the po­ten­tial for some very large op­er­a­tions com­ing into the county, and plans should be pub­lished for pub­lic re­view,” Richards said.

Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent Larry Porter thanked every­one for their in­put.

“We’ve heard a range of re­sponses, from ‘We should be able to mine wher­ever we want to,’ to ‘I don’t want it by me,’” Porter said. “We will take your com­ments, go back and take a look at this.”

The com­mis­sion­ers are also con­sid­er­ing adding a sep­a­rate el­e­ment to the county’s com­pre­hen­sive plan ad­dress­ing min­eral re­sources. That amend­ment is view­able on the county’s web­site, www.car­o­linemd.org, and a pub­lic hearing on the amend­ment has been set for 6:15 p.m. Tues­day, April 24, in their reg­u­lar meet­ing room in the Car­o­line County Cir­cuit Court­house at 109 Mar­ket St., Denton.

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