ELLSWORTH — Planning Board members at a sketch plan meeting on March 4 aired concerns over the proximity of a proposed 10-acre gravel pit to KidsPeace. Those concerns are based on the noise associated with an extraction operation and what effect it might have on the autism program in place at the residential school.
KidsPeace is located off Patriot Road, and the proposed site on North Street abuts the school property.
“Bear in mind that we’re constrained by the ordinances that we wind up working with,” Chairman John Fink said. “Some things that some of us would like to see are beyond our purview.”
Noise may be one of those things. The city noise ordinance prohibits construction noise from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. “Noise” is defined as sound over 90 decibels for 30 minutes.
KidsPeace abuts the 45-acre site where E. Skip Grindle & Sons, a North Street landscaping business, plans to put the 10-acre gravel pit. A roughly 1-acre gravel pit already exists on the property. That pit would be enlarged under the plan. The location of the pit is close to the school, as is a narrow access road off Patriot Road leading to the Grindle parcel.
“We very often see people from KidsPeace, sometimes unsupervised, come through that property,” neighbor Paul Marino told the board. “They come on that property and down to the shoreline. You may not be able to keep children from KidsPeace off that property.”
However, the proposed plan includes a new access road to the site from North Street that board members said was more appropriate from a safety standpoint and because heavy truck traffic would degrade the road off Patriot Road. This is despite zoning requirements that if two access roads exist, the one with the least traffic and pedestrians should be used.
“Considering the intensity of mineral extraction, we’ve decided to zone this property both in the shoreland and rural in order to permit these activities,” board alternate Patrick Lyons noted. “In doing so, the board has relatively broad discretion in reducing impacts to the neighbors.”
As proposed, the pit would maintain the 100-foot setback required from Graham Lake, and water used in the operation will be contained within the pit, said Steve Salsbury, who is representing the application on behalf of E. Skip Grindle & Sons.
At the board’s request, City Planner Elena Piekut will coordinate a site visit once the preliminary application is submitted.
“I know there’s still a lot of ground to cover, but considering it’s on the lake and abuts a school for children with autism, maybe many of my concerns will be addressed by seeing the property and the topography,” Lyons said.
The city has received two public comments from neighbors to the proposed project and will address them and any more that are received at the preliminary application meeting. The board next meets on April 7, and Salsbury said he will submit additional information to hold the preliminary application meeting at that time.