June 20, 2018
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Council rejects gravel pit moratorium

By Rich Hewitt, BDN Staff

BUCKSPORT, Maine — Town councilors have rejected a proposed moratorium on mineral extraction even as the town considers additional regulations on that land use.

According to Town Manager Roger Raymond, the council last week chose not to accept a recommendation from the town’s planning board for the moratorium, according to Town Manager Roger Raymond. The planning board had proposed the moratorium in anticipation of developing amendments to the town’s land use ordinance regarding gravel pits.

“The councilors determined that they could enact the changes to the ordinance just as fast as they could enact the moratorium,” Raymond said Monday.

The normal process for presenting a moratorium ordinance would have required the council to introduce the ordinance and hold a public hearing before voting on it. If adopted, it would have taken effect 30 days after the vote unless it was enacted as an emergency.

“The council didn’t see the need for it,” Raymond said.

Councilors recently adopted a new land use ordinance, which included new restrictions on gravel pits in town, he explained. The planning board and ordinance committee also are working on additional amendments to that section of the ordinance, and the code enforcement officer already has drafted proposed language for those changes.

Councilors said the restrictions in the existing ordinance would be sufficient to deal with an application for a small gravel pit on Bucks Mill Road and another that is anticipated for the same area. The existing standards require that no quarry can operate unless it exits onto Routes 15 or 46, although Raymond noted the ordinance includes provisions for “contract zoning,” which would allow the planning board and Town Council to approve projects that met other criteria.

“The council felt they could get a new ordinance as quickly as they could a moratorium and that the current standards, which were adopted several months ago, were sufficient to deal with those applications,” he said.

The town’s focus on quarries and gravel pits stems from the continuing dispute over a proposed quarry and stone-crushing operation off Route 46. Vaughn Thibodeau and Sons proposed using 19 acres on the 147-acre parcel it owns on Route 46 near the Dedham town line. Residents raised concerns about the impact of the operation, which is located near several residential subdivisions.

After a long and often emotional review process, the planning board rejected the company’s application last year. Thibodeau since has appealed that decision in Hancock County Superior Court.

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