HMA Plant May Soon Be On the Way

Braddock Construction appears to be in the final stages of having its rezoning request granted by Maryland's Allegany County Board of Commissioners.

CUMBERLAND -- Braddock Construction appears to be in the final stages of having its rezoning request granted by the Allegany County Board of Commissioners.

The board took no action Thursday after a 45-minute public hearing on the issue, as a local engineer and a local attorney provided a summary of events since September 2008, when owners Kristin and Dave Weimer announced their plans to build a hot-mix asphalt plant, a rubble landfill and a recycling center for industrial waste. The company also intends to relocate its Eckhart headquarters to the site, located one mile north of Midland and one mile south of Mountainview Landfill on the west side of state Route 36.

No one spoke against the proposed rezoning, which would designate the majority of 104 acres as industrial and make a small portion along Route 36 residential. Matt Brewer of Bennett, Brewer and Associates and attorney Michael Scott Cohen presented the case for Braddock Construction. Cumberland attorney Edward Crossland also spoke in favor of the request, amended since an agreement was reached between the applicant and a number of area property owners who had expressed concerns about noise, dust and increased traffic.

Crossland said it was "not a perfect but a very reasonable amended application. There is no opposition here."

The Allegany County Planning and Zoning Commission recommended in October the county approve the rezoning based on a change in the character of the neighborhood, one of two possibilities under state law. Though rejected by the planning commission, Brewer also pushed for a favorable result on the request based on an apparent mistake in zoning by county officials after the state Bureau of Mines indicated a post-mining industrial use as adopted by the state's Land Reclamation Committee in the 1970s -- before Allegany County adopted a comprehensive plan.

"Clearly, they did not have the information at the time they made these decisions," Brewer said, reading from a report prepared by the county's own planning division. "If they had the information, would it have made a difference?"

Brewer said yes, and said County Planning Coordinator Phil Hager's staff report indicated that communication between the committee and county planners was nonexistent and there remains "next to none today." Proof of the county's need to know such information, Brewer said, is in Hager's directive to the county planning office to scour the post-mining land use information on every strip-mined property in Allegany County to consider that in the ongoing development of comprehensive plans.

Hager acknowledged then a mistake might have been made but that Planning Commission members, by a 4-2 vote, felt the evidence as presented did not warrant their support of a mistake in zoning. Hager said it might have been the commission's reluctance to say the county made a mistake.

"This does not mean the county made an intentional error or (anyone) was incompetent," Brewer said.

As he had during multiple Planning Commission hearings and meetings, Brewer attempted to highlight the project's economic benefit to Allegany County government. There would be job creation and an impact of more than $800,000, including $521,656 in development fees, into the county treasury. County Attorney Bill Rudd, however, cut Brewer off. He said the issue at hand was a rezoning request, which had nothing to do with the desired project, or its impact, at full build-out.

County Commissioner Jim Stakem said the record on the issue will remain open until close of business Dec. 14.

Contact Kevin Spradlin at kspradlin@times-news.com

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