Mineral extraction measures seen as positive step

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WINDHAM — The Planning Board sent a group of amendments about mineral extraction back to the Town Council with comments Monday night, which many believed was “a good first step” to addressing the contentious issue of mineral extraction within town. 

While the amendments bring the town’s ordinance more in compliance with state standards, they are more restrictive in some areas, according to Town Planner 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.”

The board debated the amendments, 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. 

On Monday night, the board held a workshop with the Mineral Extraction Committee and then discussed the amendments at its regular meeting.

Planning Board members disliked that the amendments do not address zoning. Lessard said the committee did not come to a consensus on this topic. 

The board also discussed applicability and what would constitute a mineral extraction operation. Other topics of conversation included exemptions and protecting aquifers and impaired water bodies. 

During the workshop, Lessard said “the committee was split on whether or not a gravel pit or a quarry really had that amount of impact on a lake watershed.”

The board 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.”

Board member Andrew Mayo said the amendments were “a good first step.” 

The board Monday also reviewed two projects from DM Roma Consulting Engineers. 

The first project entails a three-lot subdivision off Nash Road. Dustin Roma, owner and president of DM Roma, said his client, Daigle Financial & Development, had entered into a purchase and sale agreement with the neighboring property owner. 

“What’s going to take place is some land swaps between those two properties to configure the land,” he said, in order to “put the driveway entrance in the most safe location.”

Board members were concerned that the purchase would create a four-lot subdivision, which would trigger the requirement for a water main extension. 

Lessard said that the client planned to purchase the fourth lot under a separate entity. Since the four properties would not all be under the same ownership, it would not be considered a four-lot subdivision. 

“That sounds like purposeful misdirection around the rules,” Chairman David Douglass said. “Once he owns all four lots, that’s a four-lot subdivision.”

Roma said the purchase is the only way he can locate the subdivision road in a location that meets the requirement for site distance. 

“I don’t want the perception to be that we’re getting away with anything. We’re trying to do the right thing,” he said. 

“There needs to be some change made to either show this as a four-lot subdivision or do something different,” Lessard said.

The board asked Roma to have the town attorney weigh in and granted him three waivers for the requirement that the road end in a cul-de-sac, a hydrogeological assessment and sidewalks.

The second project was for a self-storage facility on a 1.38-acre site on Route 302 consisting of three buildings. 

The board discussed firetruck access and sidewalk connectivity. 

Roma said a firetruck could pull onto the property but could not drive around the perimeter. 

Board members expressed concern about this issue, and Lessard added that Fire Chief Brent Libby wanted to be able to get firetrucks around the perimeter of the site. 

While Roma said he “would not expect to be generating pedestrian activity,” some board members said they would like a sidewalk on the property to connect with the adjacent Dollar General. 

“I want to send the message that we want sidewalks and we want connectivity,” Douglass said.

Jane Vaughan can be reached at 780-9103 or at jvaughan@keepmecurrent.com. 

Dustin Roma presents his plan for a self-storage facility.

Chairman David Douglass asks a question during Monday’s meeting.