The Carroll County Planning and Zoning Commission Tuesday approved a plan by Lehigh Portland Cement Co. to mine limestone on a portion of its land off Route 31 in New Windsor.

The commission also recommended that Lehigh be issued a zoning certificate for its entire New Windsor site, a move that concerns members of a citizens group.

The company, which now operates a quarry near its cement plant in Union Bridge, plans to develop the 750-acre site in New Windsor gradually.

Tuesday, the commission approved a site plan for the initial phase, a 186-acre plot with a 66-acre quarry.

Although the commission recommended Lehigh be issued a zoning certificate for the entire site, it said detailed plans for further expansion would have to be submitted to the county for review.

Linda Cunfer, co-chair of the New Windsor Community Action Project, said Lehigh should not have a zoning certificate for the entire site because of a comprehensive mineral mining plan being developed for the county. The remaining acreage should be subject to the provisions of the plan, she said.

The site plan approved Tuesday now goes to the Carroll Board of Commissioners. The commissioners will draw up an agreement with Lehigh for a bond, or guarantee, that the company complies with the conditions of the zoning ordinances.

County Zoning Administrator Solveig Smith said she will issue a zoning certificate once the commissioners reach a bond agreement with the company.

She said she did not know when the commissioners would act on the bond.

Lehigh's site plan includes an extensive landscaping plan designed to contain dust and noise generated by quarry operations. Earthen berms covered with grass, shrubs and trees will hide the quarry from nearby residences and the road.

County landscaper Neil Ridgely said the plan creates an "eco-system" that will tie in with existing vegetation and form a habitat for wildlife.

It's important the company put in as many of the plantings as possible by 1995 in order to insulate the New Windsor community from the quarry, he said.

Lehigh has the necessary state permits to begin the first phase of its project. Plant manager David H. Roush said work could begin in the spring if the current Board of Commissioners acts on the matter.

The new quarry would be between Route 31 and Old New Windsor Road, about two miles southwest of New Windsor.

The company has plans to expand its operations in New Windsor in two additional phases, which would expand the area used to about 300 acres. One of the phases includes a 132-acre pit.

Lehigh expects its quarry in Union Bridge to be depleted in about 18 years.

Cunfer said the approval process for quarry expansions has been complicated by the fact that a comprehensive mining plan is not in place.

County planners began working on a plan in August after a committee studying the Wakefield Valley area, the mineral-rich region between Westminster and New Windsor, completed a report on the impact of mining on the county's economy and environment.

NEWCAP also submitted comments to the commission Tuesday on hours of operation for the quarry, truck haul routes and the landscaping plan.

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