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Some Jessup residents feel that they are caught between a rock and a hard place.

The rock is called Baltimore gabbro, and it lurks beneath the soil on the edge of town. A quarry to retrieve it -- expected to be approved by the Howard County Board of Appeals tonight -- sounds like such a hard place that some neighbors fear it could endanger their quality of life and scare off newcomers.

"This will be a monstrosity," said Leah Woodbury, one of several leaders in the fight against the plan for a 546-acre wooded site bordered by single-family home and townhouse communities.

"I think the board is being very shortsighted about putting a quarry next to residential development."

Others don't share their neighbors' pessimism.

"I understand their concerns, but what do they expect?" asked Gary Prestianni, president of the Ridgelys Run Community Association, a civic group.

"It's going to be developed, and the quarry is the best option," he said.

The Board of Appeals is expected to sign a statement of approval -- reaffirming its initial OK last November on the project, which is one of the longest running cases before the board.

At that time, the board voted, 4-0, to approve developer Kingdon Gould Jr.'s plan to mine the crystalline rock called Baltimore gabbro at the site east of Interstate 95, west of U.S. 1, and south of Route 175.

Baltimore gabbro, known for its hardness and uniform texture, is a popular material for road construction. According to Gould's proposal, the quarry also could process and stockpile sand, gravel, clay and fill dirt and contain an asphalt plant.

The rock operation is expected to yield 1 million to 2 million tons of rock a year for 25 years.

Plans call for the quarry to operate between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. on weekdays and Saturdays and to be buffered by trees and plants.

The signing is the first hurdle for Gould, a North Laurel resident and a Washington parking lot magnate, who must still obtain site development and environmental permits from the county and state.

Appeal planned

Opponents have warned that they plan to file an appeal with the Howard County Circuit Court to stop the development.

Residents of this peculiar mix of upscale homes and run-down warehouses argue that the dust and traffic generated by the rock operation will drive down property values.

"It's ridiculous," said Woodbury, a Heritage Woods resident whose house is behind the proposed quarry. "We have children with asthma and adults with allergies. I'm afraid we won't be able to open our windows."

She said she has visited several quarries in the state -- including one in North Potomac in Montgomery County -- and heard complaints from nearby residents about the dust created by the mining and drilling.

Rosemary Ford, who also lives in Heritage Woods, said she is worried about declining property values in the subdivision where, she said, prices started at $130,000.

"Why would someone purposely live next to a quarry?" Ford asked of the future market for nearby houses. "I think we're going to have to give away our homes to get out of here."

The operation is expected to draw about 400 dump trucks a day -- an alarming figure for residents who contend it's hard enough to drive on U.S. 1.

"I use it every day, and it's just bad," said Tim Maier, who commutes from Jessup to Washington. "When you come home and try to make a left turn at U.S. 1 and Guilford Road, you can't. You have to wait 15, 20 minutes."

Accident concerns

Police data underscore Maier's concern. Since 1996, there have been 13 accidents near U.S. 1 at Guilford Road, said Sgt. Steven E. Keller, a county police spokesman.

But Richard B. Talkin, an attorney representing Gould, said his client has agreed to certain conditions to alleviate the concerns of nearby residents:

Asking State Highway Administration officials to lower the speed limit on U.S. 1 between Route 175 and Route 32 to 40 mph.

Donating to the Ridgelys Run Community Association 5 cents per ton of marketable stone product shipped from the quarry site, with a minimum donation of $50,000 a year.

Donating a 7-acre parcel behind the quarry for a community center that would include an outdoor basketball court, two tennis courts and a youth baseball field.

Working together

"You can never satisfy 100 percent of the people," Talkin said. "But this is more than what's required. It's a project that shows how business and community can get together and work out a proposal that is beneficial to everyone."

And Prestianni, the community association president, contended that it will be the supply of homes on the market -- not the quarry -- that will determine property values.

"People will get afraid, and they will panic sell," he said.

"But once the community center is in operation, it will be a nice place to live," he said.

Maier said he's not staying long enough to prove Prestianni right. He said he plans to move his wife and two boys as soon as he can find a buyer.

"My wife is allergic to dust, my [eldest] son has allergies, and I have allergies," he said. "I feel as though it's threatening the quality of my life right now."

Pub Date: 4/24/97

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