Council considers mineral extraction, zone changes

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WINDHAM — The Town Council discussed amendments to mineral extraction ordinances as well as recommendations for the C-3 zone at its meeting Tuesday night. 

The amendments bring the town’s ordinance more in compliance with state standards, but they are more restrictive in some areas, according to Planning Director Amanda Lessard. Those areas include “the hours that blasting is permitted, dust control, stormwater management, annual inspections, reclamation plans (and) performance guarantees for replacement wells,” she said at the Feb. 11 Planning Board meeting. 

The board debated the amendments, which were developed by the Mineral Extraction Committee, at its Jan. 28 meeting, when it heard from multiple concerned citizens, and then voted to table the discussion until its next meeting.

At its Feb. 11 meeting, the board held a workshop with the Mineral Extraction Committee and then unanimously voted to put forth the amendments as written with recommendations that the council consider zoning, with a focus on aquifer overlay and lakes most at-risk; that the definition of applicability and how it is written be clarified by the town attorney; that the amounts for exemptions be considered by the council and that language in one section be changed from “residences” to “existing residences.”

On Tuesday, Lessard clarified the amendments and the Planning Board’s recommendations to the council and added that the committee could not come to a consensus regarding zoning. 

During public comment, Michael Manning said he was disappointed that there is no way for the town to access a developer’s previous rules violations in other towns. 

“There’s no reason why somebody who does something wrong in one place is allowed to move into a different town. Your record should follow you,” he said.

Lessard reminded the council that its moratorium on mineral extraction is set to expire on April 19. 

As a discussion item, there was no action to be taken Tuesday night. Chairman Clayton Haskell said there will be a public hearing regarding the amendments on April 9. 

The council also discussed recommendations for the C-3 zone Tuesday. 

Co-owner of Water Systems Inc. Holly Tubbs recently brought the issue back into  the public eye, but it dates back to 2016. At the March 14, 2016, Planning Board meeting, the board proposed amendments to, among other changes, allow construction services as a conditional use in C-2 and C-3 zones.

The board recommended the Town Council approve the amendments, but the council voted against them.

According to Lessard, property owners weren’t notified of the proposed amendments in 2016, and they are noticing the restriction now as they try to sell their properties. Current construction services are grandfathered in, but new buyers are not.

At the Feb. 25 Town Council meeting, the council discussed amendments to the land use ordinance regarding construction services in the C-3 zone. 

After hearing comments from councilors, Interim Town Manager Don Gerrish said then he and Tom Bartell of the Windham Economic Development Committee would work on a new proposal that would allow construction services in the C-3 zone “with some limits so that it doesn’t get out of hand” and would not alter allowed uses in the other zones.

On Tuesday, some councilors expressed concern about heavy construction services being allowed in certain zones, while Haskell worried about small businesses being lumped together with big businesses under certain definitions, saying “help the small guy out.” 

Bartell will work on separating heavy construction services into multiple “tiers” to allow certain types of heavy construction into C-3 while restricting others.

Lessard worried about having to “pick a number” to define how many of a certain type of vehicle would be allowed or how large a building can be in order to differentiate between the tiers. 

The definitions will return to the Town Council before being referred back to the Planning Board. 

Jane Vaughan can be reached at 780-9103 or at [email protected]