Scibles may lose four acres for salt dome

Staff Writer

DAVIDSONVILLE, Md. (Aug. 18, 2015) — There’s a little more reason to worry at Y Worry Farm these days than the name might suggest.
The family of Mark and Besty Scible, which operates the nearly 20-acre farm, recently discovered the State Highway Administration wants to build a 10,000-ton road salt dome on about four acres at the edge of the farm next to Route 50 and Davidsonville Road.
Here’s the catch: The state actually owns the four acres. In fact, it’s owned it for decades.
The issue goes back more than 50 years when the state used eminent domain to purchase the small chunk from the Scible family. It was planning to build an off-ramp from Route 50, built in the early ‘50s, onto Davidsonville Road, but it never did, choosing another design option. The state told the family they could continue farming the land. That lasted about four decades, Mark Scible said.
In 1990, the state told the Scibles it needed the land once again — this time, for a road salt dome, he said. The family protested, and the state backed off. David Buck, a spokesman with the highway administration disputes this, however, and said he could find no one to confirm the state tried to build a salt dome on the land in the 1990s.
Mark Scible said he briefly pursued purchasing back the land shortly after that episode.
“We were asked, ‘Why do you want it back?’” he said. “‘We can’t build a salt dome, and you’re free to farm it. If we ever want to build that interchange we’re just going to have to buy it back again.’”
The Scibles relented, a decision he said he regrets. If a salt dome is built there now, Mark Scible said he fears its industrial presence will simply open one of the few rural stretches along Route 50 to commercial development.
“This is the only interchange that’s still green,” he said. “All the others are commercial.”
Also at issue: When the state initially purchased the land, the agreement was specifically for an off ramp, not a salt dome, Mark Scible said. The state cannot use the acreage for whatever purpose it wishes even if it owns it, he said.
The highway administration wants to build the dome there because recent harsh winters have exposed a need for it, Buck said. The state maintains 92 salt domes across the state, but none are in that area of Anne Arundel County. Recent snowfall has required salt to be trucked in to the area, causing shortages, Buck said.
The Davidsonville Road option is just one of several under consideration, however. Other sites include one at Interstate 97 and Route 32 and another on I-97 near Glen Burnie.
A final decision is expected in the fall, he said, though the administration recently learned about a community meeting on Sept. 3 dedicated to the Davidsonville Road location.
If it’s true the agreement says the state can only use the parcel for an off-ramp and nothing else, current employees of the highway administration were not aware of it, he said. Regardless, the state will work toward a decision that is “fair, equitable and legal,” he said.
Mark Scible said he’s been speaking with state officials — he won’t say who — and lawyers in the meantime. His family continues to grow tomatoes and pumpkins on the farm, and he said he’s prepared to sue the highway administration.
“We’re hoping it’ll be killed before it goes there,” he said.