Changes to the Carroll County code regarding mining operations have been described as clarifications by Lehigh Cement Co., but some residents have argued the changes could have a significant impact on their community.

A draft of the proposed changes now in front of the Board of Carroll County Commissioners for final approval is said to represent a compromise.

"Lehigh did indeed work with us to address our needs and at this point I see no reason that they won't do that," said Brian Mobley, chairman of the board for NEWCAP (New Windsor Community Action Project).

On Oct. 2 the county Planning and Zoning Commission sent the mining provisions to the commissioners with a recommendation for approval after two months of discussing the topic. The Town of New Windsor also submitted a letter to the county expressing its support for the provisions.

County commissioners voted Oct. 10 to send the provisions to a public hearing.

Lehigh, a Union Bridge based cement manufacturer, has requested the changes to the code as part of its New Windsor quarry expansion, which has been communicated to the public over the past five years, according to plant manager Kent Martin.

The requested change that has generated the most dispute involved the definition of "extractive operations."

Lehigh had requested that storage of excavated material not be considered an extractive operation, but some residents argued that the change could allow Lehigh to work around the clock.

"In theory mining operations would stop at 7 p.m., but operations could go on for 24 hours," Mobley said referring to the transportation and storage of excavated materials.

Kurt Deery, an environmental engineer with Lehigh, said the company requested the change because it felt it had a safeguard in place with the current sound ordinances.

Deery said Lehigh knows it could not meet the 55 decibel maximum for noise levels at a property line after 5 p.m. making it impossible for Lehigh to function after hours.

The code request submitted to the commissioners would now only allow the storage of excavated materials to occur between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday.

A second request from Lehigh that has generated concern is a change that would allow the storage and removal of excavated material in the Mineral Resource Recovery area, which is currently prohibited.

This change would allow the storage of excavated material to be as close as 70 feet from a citizen's property line, but Mobley said after seeing Lehigh's plan for the concurrent reclamation projects, he is comfortable with the request.

"If that doesn't happen, we'll be right the to address it with them," he said.

Martin said the requests made by Lehigh are necessary for the concurrent reclamation portion of the quarry expansion, which is a key part to the expansion.

Concurrent reclamation is a method of storing unusable rock by building a gradual sloping hill in stages which is then covered with grass.

Although the peak of the concurrent reclamation piles will be 120 feet high, Lehigh claims that the visual impact to the surrounding community will be minimal. Landscaping berms, about 10 feet high with trees planted on top, will block most of the work happening, according to Deery.

The peak of the concurrent reclamation pile will also be 600 feet from the landscaping berm, Martin added.

Residents can expect the landscaping berms to be completed by 2015, Deery said.

Mobley said that although Lehigh and NEWCAP have butted heads in the past, the relationship is now a positive one.

"Our relationship at this point in time is positive because we're looking out for the community and it's positive because Lehigh also helps look out for the community," he said.

Martin agreed with Mobley's assessment, adding that Lehigh has learned that people may not always like the plan, but by being open and transparent, the public begins to understand why something is being done.

"I think that's well respected," Martin said.