FRANKLIN — Following a public hearing that spanned about two hours, the Planning Board decided to extend the public comment period to June 21 for a proposed rock quarry on a 75.5-acre parcel on South Bay Road. The proposal has drawn criticism and concerns from neighbors and abutters.
The extension will give residents more time to make comments while the board waits on additional information it requested from the applicant, TC Gravel LLC in Ellsworth, Planning Board Chairman Brian Abbott explained to The American.
One piece of the requested information is the decibel level of a proposed rock crusher on site, Abbott said.
According to the application, the applicant, who is being represented by Steve Salsbury of Herrick & Salsbury, “proposes to develop a production rock quarry to mine and process crushed stone, rip-rap and landscaping stones 40,000 square feet in size on South Bay Road.”
The application states that, “Drilling and blasting will be conducted by Coastal Drilling and Blasting located in Ellsworth,” and that the mostly undeveloped property has been the site of “some quarrying” in the past.
Part of the approval process for a project less than 1 acre (the proposed quarry is about .91 acres) requires obtaining a “permit-by-rule” through the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Abbott said.
An explanation of the permit-by-rule process on the DEP’s website states that, “A person proposing to do work that qualified for permit-by-rule is required to file notice with the DEP instead of preparing an individual permit application.”
Permit-by-rule regulations “identify activities taking place in or adjacent to wetlands and waterbodies that should not significantly affect the environment if carried out according to the standards contained in the regulations.”
For some abutters and neighbors, the proposed project and minimal DEP intervention raises concerns.
“Having a quarry operate just slopped down in a residential area really interferes with the quality of life for a lot of people,” said Ken Fogelman, president of the Taunton Bay Shores Homeowners Association, in a recent interview. The association consists of 48 lots and 17 houses. Eight of the 17 households are owned by full-time residents, Fogelman reported.
His concerns include being in proximity to dynamite operations, the impact on wells and well-water and the potential for Planning Board approval of multiple quarries that are also less than 1 acre, among others.
“My concern very simply is the quarry shouldn’t be here,” he said, noting that when residents in the area decided to purchase their homes, they were not doing so near an active quarry.
Hugh Williams has lived in his house for 31 years. It is half a mile away from the proposed quarry.
“I’m concerned that the Planning Board … that they’ll go ahead and issue this permit for a quarry that’s really in a residential neighborhood,” he told The American. His concerns also include being close to blasting, grinding, heavy traffic and the possibility of multiple quarries.
While he notes that quarries were active in the area in the 19th century, he said, “I just don’t think a quarry is appropriate in the 21st century in this neighborhood.”
After doing his own research, he found that living near active quarries can “depress property values by up to one-third.” He said he hoped the Planning Board would be responsive to public comments.
In response to the concerns voiced at the public hearing, Salsbury told The American that he was working on providing additional information to the Planning Board.
“The Planning Board asked us to gather some additional information and we’re going to provide a sound study estimating the noise emanating from the quarry,” he said, noting that typical equipment such as an excavator, rock drill and crusher would all be in operation for the study. He said he was looking at water quality issues in the area, including getting samples from existing wells to compile into a report.
“We don’t anticipate there will be any adverse effects to neighbors’ water quality,” he said.
“There was a lot of discussion about traffic on the town’s road coming from certain Planning Board members and the public,” he noted. “We wouldn’t expect to damage the road any more than the fuel trucks going in there.”
He said operations would be in the summer when the road is dry and hard and not during the spring. He added that he was aware of road limitations.
Abbott noted that town ordinances contain 19 conditions that must be met by applicants.
“Almost anything any abutter brought up at public hearing would have been categorized under one of those 19 points,” Abbott said. He said that DEP approval at the state level does not necessarily mean local approval, which can be tailored to have stricter requirements.
“We’ve heard the public concern,” he noted. “We have some questions.”
Abbott explained that per the town’s ordinance, after all the public comments and questions about the project have been received, the applicant will have an opportunity for rebuttal and to answer questions.
Salsbury said it would be months before the application would go before the Planning Board again.