Today, the county commissioners are sifting through the drafts, mapsand notes they've made on the proposed mining plan.

Tomorrow, they vote.

"It's time to try to do something," Commissioner President DonaldI. Dell said yesterday after a 2 1/2-hour work session on the controversial plan. "We've listened, and we have to make a decision.

"It's not going to be easy for us," he added.

The commissioners are scheduled to vote on the plan -- which has been in the works for more than a year -- at 11 a.m. tomorrow.

The plan -- written by county government staff and a citizens committee -- would become part of thecounty's master plan and would dictate where limestone mining may occur.

Last week, 200 people attended a public hearing during which the commissioners heard from Wakefield Valley residents who overwhelmingly oppose the plan because, they say, it robs them of their property rights.

Two mining companies quarry limestone in Carroll; a third owns land and intends to mine.

Most of the county's limestone lies in Wakefield Valley, an area between Westminster and New Windsor.

The proposed plan makes mining a permitted use in certain areas of the valley.

A New Windsor citizens group has proposed an alternate plan that would create a "floating" mining zone that members say would give county government officials more say about where mining could occur.

Assistant County Attorney Michelle Ostrander said if thecommissioners decide they like the New Windsor Community Action Project proposal, they will have to hold another public hearing because NEWCAP's plan differs fundamentally from the proposed plan.

NEWCAP attorney Clark R. Shaffer disagreed, saying the group incorporated much of the original proposal.

"We did a cut-and-paste job," he said.

"I don't blame the staff for defending their plan. Our plan requires a lot of extra work on their part."

All three commissioners asked questions about both plans at yesterday's work session.

Dell,a dairy farmer, expressed concern that land in areas zoned for mining could be used only for mining or agriculture.

"We're taking rights from those people," he said, adding that farmers would lose the right to sell their land for development. "The farmer gets the shaft every time we do rezoning."

The three commissioners agreed that mining operations should be at least a half-mile from the town of New Windsor.

"It's the only request these people (town residents) have made and it should be honored," Commissioner Julia W. Gouge said.

The commissioners objected to a recommendation in the plan that would allow land owners prohibited from building houses on their property because of the mining zone to sell the development rights for their lots to someone who could build in another area of the county.

The transfer of development rights program has never been tried here, they said.

"The economics aren't there. I can't see it," Dell said.

Representatives of the three mining companies -- Lehigh Portland Cement Co., Genstar Stone Products Co. and The Arundel Corp. -- said theysupport the original proposed plan because it is a compromise.

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