LAMOINE — A handful of gravel pit owners debated the nitty gritty of a proposed gravel-and-mining ordinance Tuesday night at a public hearing before the planning board. The ordinance will go before voters on May 5.
Jerry Jordan, owner of one pit, suggested the ordinance could “put a lot of small businesses right out of business,” saying that the town was “singling out gravel pit businessess” by increasing the regulations.
The town has 11 working gravel pits and several inactive ones that remain scarred earth, free of vegetation. Lamoine first started regulating gravel pits in 1986 with the adoption of an ordinance. A requirement for the eventual restoration of pits was included in that first ordinance.
The proposed ordinance discussed at the public hearing Tuesday amends the original ordinance and, for the first time, regulates any potential mining operations in the town.
Lamoine’s working gravel pits are owned by six people. The pits supply many loads of gravel to construction projects in the area, including for reconstruction of the carriage roads in Acadia Naitonal Park.
A requirement of more costly fees for annual application permits provoked one gravel pit owner to accuse the planning board of deliberately trying to make his livelihood more difficult.
“Did you do that on purpose?” owner Jerry Jordan queried about the fee for pits larger than four acres. “Almost everyone here has a pit over five acres,” Jordan said.
One of the hottest points of contention about the new ordinance is the requirement that the applicant for a permit establish an escrow account to assure the pit or mining operation will be restored.
At ten cents per square foot for all area excavated but not restored, the applicant would have to place $4,356 per acre into the account. Once the excavation has been restored in whole or in part, the planning board will release all or part of the escrow account, depending on the amount restored.
Presently, the town requires restoration and a performance guarantee bond. Acting Planning Board Chairman Robert Alvarez said the bonds are not available, and noted that the town would “like to see the color of the money” before a permit is issued.
John Goodwin, another owner of a pit in Lamoine, lamented the requirement for the escrow account, saying it was “backcharging” for land he has already opened up as a working pit. Alvarez said the escrow requirement only pertained to those portions of pits opened up after 1986.
Another sore point was the proposed change in hours for gravel pit operations, which would restrict screening and crushing operations to 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays only. Gravel extraction and loading operations would be restricted to 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., with all operations prohibited on Sunday.
Goodwin complained about the starting time. “It’s really a shame a man can’t go to work at 7 a.m.,” he said, referring to the 8 a.m. time for screening. “It’s really making a hardship.”
He wondered what the Planning Board had done to make his job easier. “Are there any provisions in here to try to help us?” he asked.
Alvarez said just being able to operate in town should be valuable to Goodwin, adding that many residents don’t like the sound of gravel pit operations early in the morning.
He said most of the language in the proposed ordinance is taken from state law. Other parts of it have been added, he said, to protect the town’s ground water.
Copies of the proposed ordinance are available at the Lamoine Town Office.