Residents of the tiny Montgomery County town of Boyds say they fear that their tranquil rural community, now dominated by the noises of birds and children, may soon be invaded by the crushing sounds of a quarry and the truck traffic it inevitably will bring.
Five times since the 1950s, owners of property that sits atop a valuable deposit of diabase--a stone considered superior to other types for use in concrete and road surfacing--have tried to obtain zoning to permit quarrying. Five times the county government refused.
Now the battle is on again. A recent Montgomery Planning Board report, the draft of an amendment to the county's master plan, recommends a quarry be permitted on the 537-acre site adjacent to the town, owned by Rockville Crushed Stone.
At a forum before the planning board last week, about 250 residents of Boyds, as well as the Germantown and Gaithersburg areas, came waving signs that read: "Those who want a quarry in Boyds have rocks in their heads," and "Take your quarry and shove it." The forum was the second held by the planning department staff to gather views of citizens who will live near the facility or along truck haul routes.
Planning board Chairman Norman L. Christeller said a final draft of the proposed master plan amendment will go to the planning board Tuesday. The amendment then goes to the County Council for a joint public hearing with the planning board on May 27.
"You cannot fit a bowling ball into an eggshell," said Boyds resident and noise expert Stanley Fisher at the forum. "If you do it will surely crush that eggshell, just as surely as a quarry will crush Boyds."
"Where can you have a quarry if it's not in a rural area?" countered Rockville Crushed Stone's general manager, James Topper, in a later telephone interview. "If you can't have a quarry in a rural area, I don't think you can have it in an urban area."
Opposition to the quarry is being led by attor ney Allan A. Noble, president of the Boyds Civic Association. Noble contends there is no need for a second major quarry in Montgomery County. The master plan requires that there be a need for a quarry before the zone can be approved.
When the county master plan for Boyds was adopted in 1978, it took no position on whether there should be a quarry in Boyds. The plan stipulated that the county should consider a quarry there only after it had studied the economic need for one and adopted guidelines for a new zoning category called a Mineral Resource Recovery Zone.
The new category was approved in December 1980 and Rockville Crushed Stone submitted an application for the new zone last May. A recent planning board study concluded there was a market for a second major quarry in the county.
Noble also questioned whether Rockville Crushed Stone can live up to the environmental standards set out in the amendment, and whether those standards will be sufficient to protect Boyds from excessive dust and noise.
Noble questioned the number of truck trips per day the amendment says will occur and expressed doubt that Rockville Crushed Stone will use as much rail haul as is promised. He said the planning board document does not even discuss the on-site noise from crushers and loaders.
In addition, diabase is quarried at seven sites in Fairfax County, Noble said, and the county's needs for crushed rock are adequately met by those and the Travilah Quarry operated by Rockville Crushed Stone in Hunting Hill.
Topper said the Travilah Quarry produces only serpentinite and cannot supply the county's needs for diabase, which produces a skid-resistant surface required by federal standards on certain roads. In addition, he said, serpentinite is not suitable for concrete. Because crushed rock is the lowest value mineral commodity, its price often is determined by the distance it must be transported. A closer quarry would lower the price of crushed rock, he said.
The planning staff's draft of the amendment acknowledges that "A quarry will bring change to Boyds. Noise will increase and traffic will increase beyond what the community is now experiencing." But, it continues, "These changes, if carefully and sensitively implemented, should not substantively alter the basic rural character of Boyds."
"What this plan says," Noble charged, "is 'We're really sorry we have to dump this quarry on Boyds and we really agonized over the decision, but you lose anyway.' "
"I see only one person benefitting here," said Gary Lowenthal, another Boyds resident, "and it's Rockville Crushed Stone." He questioned why the amendment had not figured road maintenance into its analysis or why the impact of the Travilah Quarry on its community was not part of the planning board report.
Noise expert Fisher said the noise in Boyds presently is "dominated by birds and children. . . . You can't put something incredible like a quarry in a small community like this and not have it exceed noise levels." He questioned the effectiveness of tree and earth berm buffers that the plan requires. He said noise tests he conducted with members of the planning staff showed 50 percent of the trucks leaving Travilah Quarry exceeded noise standards. But, he pointed out, independent truck operators are responsible for truck noise, not the quarry operator.
Topper acknowledged that independent truck operators sometimes violate noise standards, but said, "We have absolutely no authority to police their trucks." He said that under conditions of the new zone, however, the company will have to require all trucks to meet noise standards. "We'll simply have to do it," he said.
Topper said 70 percent of the stone would be transported to a distribution site in Prince George's County by the 10th year after the quarry opened.