WINDHAM — Residents in the Forest Lake area – both from Windham and Cumberland – packed Tuesday night’s Windham Town Council workshop and expressed concern about a proposed quarry project within the watershed.
Michael Manning, who lives on Bruschi Road near the lake, emphasized the importance of protecting the town’s lakes.
“They call it Vacationland for a reason,” Manning said. “Not Quarryland.”
The April 3 council meeting followed a Windham Planning Board meeting last week, where representatives of the owners of the potential quarry presented an initial sketch plan.
According to a memo from Town Planner Amanda Lessard, the project would involve mineral extraction on 106 acres off of Lakeside Drive. The project would involve seven total lots encompassing approximately 151 acres and the land would be quarried in phases.
Patrick Coughlin, the Director of Engineering of Westbrook firm St. Germain Collins, represented Copp Equipment before the Planning Board on March 26. He said his clients, listed in application documents as Elvin and Randall Copp, “want to be good neighbors in the area, and develop it responsibly.”
Residents who spoke before the council Tuesday night appeared doubtful that the proposed quarry would be a good addition to the Forest Lake community.
Concerns ranged from the quarry’s potential impact on lake water and residential groundwater quality to increased traffic from large trucks and air quality issues to the effects of blasting that would be done at the quarry.
Dr. Stephanie Copp, who lives near the lake in Cumberland and said she is related to the owners of the potential quarry, sent a letter with her husband that Windham Council Chairwoman Donna Chapman read Tuesday night outlining several concerns about the project, including potential impacts on her home’s foundation and water.
“I am simply expressing my concerns, so that a plan may be developed harmoniously in the best interests of both the developer and the Forest Lake community,” Copp said afterward. “I believe it is possible to reach a common ground solution, and I ask you all to keep an open mind.”
“Please take into consideration that the entire Copp family does not share the same view on this,” she added.
Her comments were met with applause from the audience.
Of the five Councilors present Tuesday night, four of them indicated some level of sympathy or understanding for the residents and their concerns.
“If it was my will, I’d say it ought not to pass, because of what it’s going to do to your area,” Chapman said about the proposal, noting she wasn’t sure what avenues the Council may or may not have in regards to the project. “I do believe blasting up there is going to impact your water quality and the groundwater.”
Councilor Timothy Nangle said he felt the quarry “just doesn’t belong there” and wondered if there could be a town moratorium on mineral extraction permits.
“I’m not sure exactly where we stand on that as far as the Council is concerned, the last I knew, the Planning Board did have that decision as far as ordinances to look at,” said Council Vice Chairman Robert Muir, who called it a “very sobering night” listening to the residents’ “valid concerns.”
Planning Board Chairman David Douglass referenced concerned members in the audience last Monday and cautioned people that the board’s role is mostly limited to reviewing projects and working with town staff to determine whether or not plans line up with existing ordinances.
Douglass also warned the applicant that he is “very, very, very concerned” for the people in the audience “probably more so than almost any project” and what the quarry could mean for them.
“While this is allowed and it’s probably very good for the commerce of the town and very good for the owner and good for development, this is potentially very bad for a few specific people,” Douglass continued last week. “And that is really, really important and that is not lost on us.”
In an email Tuesday, Coughlin said that for the proposed quarry, he and his clients “will be protective of the environment (surface and groundwater, air quality, etc.) safe for workers’ and neighbors’ health, and will meet town and state standards for traffic, noise and blasting.”
According to Coughlin, the developers have heard the local concerns and are attempting to address them in their application to the town.
“We have reached out to the local community groups (Lake and Road associations) inviting them to take part in a public forum to discuss their concerns,” he said. “We are working with the groups to determine when that meeting will take place, likely in the next week.”
Coughlin said that operations in the quarry would begin once all the necessary state and local requirements have been met and any necessary permits issued.
“We envision that initial operation could begin this summer,” Coughlin said.
Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.
Members of the public packed the Windham Town Council workshop April 4 to express concerns about a proposed quarry project near Forest Lake.