ELLSWORTH — A 10-acre gravel pit off North Street found unanimous Planning Board approval on May 5, following a preliminary application review in April. The pit, which is planned as two pits — an existing 1-acre pit enlarged to 2.3 acres and a second 7.5-acre pit — was proposed by E. Skip Grindle, who operates a landscaping business at 485 North St. Approval is conditional on submission of all required state documents.
Located in the rural and limited residential zones, the project’s preliminary review had raised questions on the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) permit for a new access road off North Street and the presence of vernal pools on the 45-acre site and water quality, as the site borders Graham Lake.
Ellsworth consultant Steve Salsbury addressed those concerns by submitting a natural resources protection report on the pools “scattered over the site” and a geologist report that addressed water quality, in general, and also under drought conditions.
In addition, MDOT documentation was double-checked, while City Planner Elena Piekut said she spoke with the MDOT employee who issued the permit, Craig Kosobud.
“He basically confirmed that unless there was some major change or major misunderstanding, that it was an appropriate permit, as approved and designed,” she informed the board.
An existing gated but narrow access road off Patriot Road near the entrance to KidsPeace will serve as a backup entranceway to the pits. Earlier concerns about the nearness of the pits to KidsPeace had been addressed by KidsPeace Operations Manager Dale Cook, who wrote the board the residential school had “zero reservations” on the pit and its corporate headquarters had been notified.
Alternate Molly Friedman asked whether the buffer around the project will be maintained in the event tree roots become damaged during construction and later die. “Is there a way to work that into the plan, to acknowledge and monitor natural damages to that buffer zone, which is pretty close to the lake? It’s important, that’s why it’s in here.”
Piekut said because natural buffers are part of the requirements, if the plants later died, the site would no longer be in compliance. She added, “That can be a challenging thing to enforce.”
Board member Rick Lyles pointed to the city zoning ordinance.
“It seems to me that the resolution or the fix is somewhere embedded in an ordinance rewrite or revision, as opposed to something we could do today,” he said.
The board also unanimously approved a final plan review for a 71 Oak St. subdivision, located in the downtown zone, that would convert the space into four professional offices. The application was submitted by Penelope Houghton.
Finally, a preliminary review of a plan to expand a self-storage facility at 36 Hagans Elbow, located in the rural zone, also found unanimous approval.