A property owner cited for allowing a foundry-sand business to operate on his agriculturally zoned land in Keymar goes to Carroll County Circuit Court tomorrow for a hearing on whether the alleged industrial activity has stopped and equipment has been removed.
In March, Judge Thomas F. Stansfield gave the family of Charles U. Mehring six months to remove all construction debris and materials housed on the property in the 1200 block of Bruceville Road by Bel Air-based International Minerals and Raw Materials Inc., a company that Mehring leased land to in 2003.
Since then, Mehring has battled his Keymar neighbors and Carroll County officials in court over the use of the 14-acre property.
Foundry sand, or molding sand, is used in making molds for casting of metal. It's also used in such applications as hot-mix asphalt and structural fills.
When the county commissioners refused to rezone the property for industrial use, Mehring unsuccessfully appealed their decision to the state Court of Special Appeals.
Because the property is zoned agricultural, no new commercial or industrial activity can take place without a change through the county Board of Zoning Appeals.
"It's an unauthorized business," County Attorney Kimberly Millender said of the alleged activity on Mehring's property.
Stansfield ordered county officials not to intervene in the foundry-sand case until after tomorrow's hearing, Millender said.
Even though Mehring has apparently abandoned the foundry-sand operation, his Bruceville Road neighbors said they are worried that it will only be a matter of time before another business pops up in violation of the property's zoning.
"They've cleaned up because they have to, just enough to make everyone go away and then it's on to something else," said a neighbor, Van Jacobs Jr.
Mehring had another business operating on his property until he cleaned it up for inspections a week ago, said Ralph E. Green, county zoning administrator.
Ono, Pa.-based J.P. Donmoyer Inc. had been operating a truck terminal, transferring bulk materials on Mehring's property since the spring, Green said. He said the trucks were being loaded with a black carbon powder used to purify emissions at power plants.
Jacobs set up a camera and Web site (www.enviroloss.com) to document the "black clouds" of dust created by the transfer station. The substance being hauled was activated lignite coal.
But there was no evidence of the J.P. Donmoyer business on the property Monday, Green said. All roll-off waste containers and foundry sand and concrete vaults from the previous International Minerals and Raw Materials operation had been removed, he said.
Stacks of wooden pallets remain on the property. Mehring said they are used to store and distribute fertilizer around the site of the old Mehring Fertilizer mill, which the family started in the late 19th century.
Green said the fertilizer business can remain as a grandfathered-in industrial use because it existed before the county implemented zoning in the 1960s.
But Mehring has to prove with documentation that the plant never ceased operations, Green said.
Though the mill no longer produces fertilizer, Mehring said it has lime and liquid nitrogen trucked and brought in by railroad daily for distribution.
The Maryland Department of the Environment also has inspected Mehring's property. The agency could hold him responsible if there are additional violations, Green said.
Though most of the foundry sand was removed, an environmental official documented, on Aug. 22, barren soil that caused sediment to run into nearby Big Pipe Creek during storms.
The Aug. 22 document required Mehring to take several corrective measures. He could face further sanctions if his property is not properly seeded and mulched with sediment controls to prevent contaminated storm water from running into the creek.
The case that goes to Circuit Court tomorrow was originally filed in 2004 by Bruce and Sandra Groomes, who later sold their home to Jacobs.
The dust from the foundry sand operation caused his wife, Sandra, to develop a "black lung" type condition, Bruce Groomes said.
The Groomeses moved out of their Bruceville Road more than two years ago and now live in Union Bridge.
"It was always a dust cloud back there," Groomes said. "We fought this thing for years. Now I'm done with it."