A proposed scuba diving center near a mining site east of Woodsboro got support Tuesday from the Frederick County Council.
Council Vice President Michael Blue (R) introduced legislation proposing a change to the mineral mining zoning code, which would help quarry owner Brad Hill and Matt Skogebo, a Baltimore-area scuba instructor, construct a scuba diving facility.
Hill and Skogebo’s proposal also includes an ecology center, restaurant/clubhouse and other attractions, and is estimated to cost roughly $30 million. Blue’s bill requires that the facility must:
- Use an existing, open-pit mine fed by a natural spring.
- Have an operations setback at least 50 feet from all property lines and 300 feet from all mineral extraction, hauling and processing.
- Be approved by the Maryland Department of the Environment before site plan approval.
Before council members asked questions, Hill described the history of the site, including his mining of pozzolans south of Md. 550 and the freshwater reservoir north of that road, which would be the site of the scuba diving center and related attractions.
Hill and Skogebo said one of the main purposes of the proposal is to promote “ecological stewardship” of the water and surrounding area.
“The waters in Maryland [are] phenomenally clean, and this is the cleanest water in Maryland. ... As far as I know, there’s no other geology like this,” Hill said of the reservoir and nearby landscape.
Councilman Jerry Donald (D) asked Hill and Skogebo how many people they anticipate will visit the site to scuba dive. Skogebo replied that once the site is up and running, 250 to 300 people could visit per day, mostly on weekends.
Donald also wondered if there were concerns about the public dirtying the water and site. Skogebo said the culture of the scuba diving community should ensure the site remains clean.
“We are stewards in our own right. We care about the environment and we police each other very much,” Skogebo said.
Councilwoman Jessica Fitzwater (D) asked what aspects might be considered when the proposal is undergoing site plan approval before county planning staff.
Mike Wilkins, director of the county’s Department of Development and Review, said he and colleagues will look at how the proposal aligns with the county’s adequate public facilities ordinance.
That includes if nearby road infrastructure would be able to handle the traffic, and other infrastructure needs, Wilkins added.
“Based on the use, we determine what level of review is necessary,” Wilkins said. “It can be ... all the way up to the need to have a traffic engineer do a formal study of existing and proposed traffic and how that would impact local intersections.”
A first reading of the bill is expected in the coming weeks.