ELLSWORTH — Developers of the Grindle Pit, a 10-acre gravel extraction operation proposed for a North Street location abutting KidsPeace, have submitted a preliminary site plan review application that the Planning Board will take up on April 7. An earlier sketch plan discussion in March raised concerns among board members about the nearness of the gravel pit to the residential school that serves children on the autism spectrum.
However, in a letter from KidsPeace Operations Supervisor Dale Cook, Cook stated that KidsPeace had no concerns that the noise and truck traffic associated with mining extraction would be an issue for students. A small pit currently exists and is in use at the Grindle property, with trucks using the Patriot Road access road, although a new access road from North Street will be constructed to serve the pit.
“These terms give us no reason to object to their company utilizing this road,” Cook wrote.
In addition, no noise complaints have arisen from the ongoing extraction, Cook said. “For a few months, no one even knew they were back there … The tree line that separates our properties seems to provide an adequate noise barrier.”
Cook also said that while “every so often a child tries to run from campus,” he and gravel site owner E. Skip Grindle have agreed “that if this situation arises, they will stop all work and machinery until that child is recovered” if the child is headed toward the pit’s area of operation.
Cook concluded, “We have had a long-term relationship between our businesses and have found E. Skip Grindle Inc. to be trustworthy, reliable and true to their word. I see no reason as to why a shared boundary should prohibit that from moving forward.”
However, City Planner Elena Piekut said her department is recommending the application be found incomplete, because no groundwater impact analysis was included with the application, as required by the Unified Development Ordinance. Also, further investigation is needed into nine potential vernal pools, a wildlife habitat protected under the Natural Resources Protection Act. The recommendation for this is included in the Site Condition Report prepared by Herrick & Salsbury, the agents representing the project to the Planning Board, but the investigation was awaiting spring, when water fills the pools.
The 10-acre pit will lie roughly in the center of a 40-acre parcel alongside Graham Lake and, at over 5 acres, is subject to Department of Environmental Protection permitting and inspections. Locally, the proposed operation lies in the Rural District, with a portion in the Limited Residential Shoreland Zoning District, where mineral extraction requires Planning Board approval.
Piekut said if the Planning Board follows the recommendation to find the preliminary site plan incomplete, there are no consequences outside of the applicant returning to the board with an updated plan. She also noted, “If a use is permitted in a zoning district, and the proposal is found to meet all of the standards, then the board ought to approve it. Some standards are more subjective than others, however, so generally speaking members may disagree on whether each one is met. The board also has the authority to impose conditions on an approval that will ensure a certain criteria is met.”
The board meets virtually at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 7.