A quarry project has rocked some residents of Sebago and they are urging townspeople to vote next week for a moratorium banning mines, gravel pits and quarries in the village district.
Gorham Sand & Gravel, the Buxton-based company that wants to open the quarry off Highway 11, says it wants to work with residents to ensure its operation doesn’t negatively impact their quality of life.
Quarry supporters and opponents will decide the matter on Tuesday, when Sebago holds a special town hall meeting at town hall. A majority of the city’s five-member board voted to recommend a 180-day moratorium on mines, gravel pits and quarries. Tuesday’s special city meeting is scheduled to start at 6 p.m.
The terms of the moratorium state that the Sebago Land Use Ordinance does not adequately address or regulate the location and factors that could result from large-scale mining, gravel or quarrying operations. He cites concerns such as potential groundwater contamination, damage to roads from heavy trucks, noise created by blasting and truck traffic, and dust pollution.
In the mandate of the city assembly, it is stated that elected officials have determined that this is an emergency and that city staff need six months to update the Sebago Land Use Ordinance. The emergency moratorium ordinance, if enacted on Tuesday, would take effect immediately and remain in effect for 180 days. The city says the moratorium could be renewed for an additional 180 days if necessary.
Barry Jordan, whose home is about 1,000 feet from the proposed quarry, led efforts to shut down the project. He circulated a petition that collected enough signatures to put the moratorium to the municipal assembly for a vote and organized a rally on Sunday to oppose the project. Jordan expects around 75 people to attend the protest to be held near the city’s primary school on routes 11 and 114.
Meanwhile, a short distance from the rally, Gorham Sand & Gravel will host a barbecue from noon to 3 p.m. at Richard’s Dairy Delight, where staff will be available to answer questions about the operation of the quarry.
Jordan, who has lived in Sebago for 47 years, praised Gorham Sand & Gravel, describing it as a good company with strong roots in Maine. He says his ox is at the proposed site of the quarry.
“We need the aggregate from the sand pits and quarries, but we don’t need it in the Sebago village district,” Jordan said, adding that the quarry is too close to the town’s primary school and has the potential to contaminate residents’ wells. as well as lower property values.
Jordan, who works as a mortgage loan officer for a bank and is the former city fire and relief chief, said the city’s ordinances are well written, “but they are weak.” A moratorium will give Sebago the time it needs to tighten the ordinances regulating careers, he said. The Sebago Planning Board is currently reviewing Gorham Sand & Gravel’s site plan application, but has yet to take any action. Another project review meeting is scheduled for December.
Anne McMahon describes herself as a concerned citizen. She is concerned that the library, elementary school and several city residences are too close to the blasting area and that truck traffic along Route 114 will increase.
â€œWe hang on by the nails. It’s David and Goliath’s problem, â€said McMahon, a retired real estate agent.
In a letter dated November 1 to Managing Director Michele Bukoveckas, Mark Curtis, vice president of Gorham Sand & Gravel, said his company purchased the 200-acre quarry plot in April after checking with the city of ‘first to ensure that the use was permitted in that area. Only 42 acres will ultimately be used – in phases – to extract aggregate, a product used to build roads, bridges and paved surfaces.
â€œWe understand that residents have property rights. Likewise, as a landowner in Sebago, we also have property rights, â€Curtis wrote. â€œOur intention is to be a valued and caring neighbor. In our 35 years in business, Gorham Sand & Gravel has always strived to be an asset to any community we invest in. Sebago will be no different.
Curtis said the planning board accepted the company’s September 14 sitemap proposal as complete. This was followed by a site visit on September 25. And on October 12, there was a public hearing in which the concerns of the attackers were expressed.
Despite the company’s efforts to educate the public, Curtis said “the rush to propose a moratorium is premature.” In the November 1 letter, Curtis pointed out that the city has already approved other sand, gravel and quarry operations. â€œThere is no legal emergency that would require a moratorium. We can handle the new vocal concerns as part of the existing process.
An information leaflet provided by Curtis explains the impact and value of the career project. Over the life of the project, 42 acres will be mined, but only 10 acres will be mined at a time.
Truck traffic on routes 114 and 11 will generate approximately 20 truck round trips on a typical day. A licensed hydrogeologist examined the impact on wells and groundwater and determined that the quarry would not change the quality or quantity of water in the area. The water mist will be used on dry days to reduce dust, and on average the quarry will produce less than 20 explosions per year. Blasting will only take place between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on weekdays.
â€œAggregated materials are necessary for everyday life. We are responding to a need. Schools, hospitals, homes, roads and bridges all need aggregates. If we don’t meet the need, someone will. Without our industry, life would be very different.
The planning board reviewed the project at its November 9 meeting. Curtis told the board that his hours of operation for the quarry will be 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Limited hours would be in place on Saturdays.
Curtis, in a telephone interview, said he was not sure what Gorham Sand & Gravel would do if the moratorium was approved by voters.
â€œHonestly, I don’t know,â€ he said.
If the moratorium fails and the Sebago Planning Board issues a site plan permit for the quarry, Gorham Sand & Gravel will still need to file a notice of intent to comply, said David Madore, deputy commissioner of the Department of Protection of the Maine environment.
A Notice of Intent to Comply is a signed statement from the operator, who agrees to comply with the DEP performance standards for quarries. These standards include maintaining undisturbed buffer zones for property lines, public roads and protected natural resources. Once a Notice of Intent to Comply has been filed, the operator is subject to DEP compliance inspections and must pay an annual fee to the State.
Madore said Gorham Sand & Gravel has yet to file a Notice of Intent to Comply.
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