A proposed quarry has shaken some Sebago residents and they are urging townspeople to vote next week in support of 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 Route 11, says it wants to work with residents to ensure that its operation won’t have a negative impact on their quality of life.

Quarry supporters and opponents will get to decide the issue on Tuesday, when Sebago will hold a special town meeting at Town Hall. A majority of the town’s five-member Board of Selectmen has voted to recommend passage of a 180-day moratorium on mines, gravel pits and quarries. Tuesday’s special town meeting is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.

Terms of the moratorium state that Sebago’s land use ordinance does not adequately address or regulate the location and factors that could result from large scale mining, gravel or quarry operations. It cites concerns such as potential groundwater contamination, road damage caused by heavy trucks, noise created by blasting and truck traffic, and dust pollution.

In the Town Meeting warrant, it states that selectmen have determined that this is an emergency situation and that town staff need six months to update Sebago’s land use ordinance. The emergency moratorium ordinance, if enacted Tuesday, would take effect immediately and remain in place for 180 days. The town 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, has been leading the effort to stop the project. He circulated a petition that gathered enough signatures to put the moratorium to a Town Meeting vote and has organized a rally on Sunday to oppose the project. Jordan expects about 75 people to attend the protest to be held near the town elementary school at Routes 11 and 114.

Meanwhile, a short distance from the rally, Gorham Sand & Gravel will host a barbecue from noon to 3 at Richard’s Dairy Delight, where staff will be available to answer questions about the quarry operation.

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 beef lies with the quarry’s proposed location.

“We need the aggregate that comes from sand pits and quarries, but we don’t need them in Sebago’s village district,” Jordan said, adding that the quarry is too close to the town’s elementary school and has the potential to contaminate residents’ wells as well as lower property values.

A sign opposing the proposed quarry is posted on a tree on the property of Barry Jordan. Sebago will hold a special town meeting Tuesday for residents to vote on a 180-day moratorium on any mines, gravel pits or quarries in town.  Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Jordan, who works as a mortgage loan officer for a bank, and is the town’s former fire and rescue chief, said town ordinances are well written, “but they are weak.” A moratorium will give Sebago the time it needs to beef up ordinances regulating quarries, he said. The Sebago Planning Board is currently reviewing Gorham Sand & Gravel’s site plan application, but has yet to take any action. Another meeting to review the project is scheduled for December.

Anne McMahon describes herself as a concerned citizen. She worries that the town’s library, elementary school and several homes are too close to the blasting zone and that truck traffic along Route 114 will escalate.

“We’re hanging on by our fingernails. This is a David and Goliath issue,” said McMahon, a retired realtor.

In a letter, dated Nov. 1 that was sent to Town Manager Michele Bukoveckas, Mark Curtis, vice president of Gorham Sand & Gravel, said his company purchased the 200-acre quarry parcel in April after checking with the town first to make sure the use was allowed in that zone. Only 42 acres will ultimately be utilized – in phases – for extracting aggregate, a product used to build roads, bridges and paved surfaces.

“We understand that residents have property rights. Similarly, as a landowner in Sebago, we also have property rights,” Curtis wrote. “It is our intention to be a valuable and considerate neighbor. In our 35 years in business, Gorham Sand & Gravel has always endeavored to be an asset to any community we invest in. Sebago will be no different.”

Curtis said the planning board accepted the company’s site plan proposal on Sept. 14 as complete. That was followed by a site walk on Sept. 25. And on Oct. 12, there was a public hearing where abutters’ concerns were aired.

Despite the company’s efforts at educating the public, Curtis said “the rush to propose a moratorium is premature.” In the Nov. 1 letter, Curtis pointed out that the town has previously approved other sand, gravel and quarry operations. “There is no legal emergency which would necessitate a moratorium. We can deal with the new vocal concerns within the existing process.”

An informational flyer provided by Curtis explains the impact and value of the quarry project. Over the life of the project, 42 acres will be quarried, but only 10 acres will be quarried at any one time.

Truck traffic on Routes 114 and 11 will generate about 20 truck round trips on a typical day. A licensed hydrogeologist reviewed the impact on wells and groundwater and determined that the quarry would not alter the quality or quantity of water in the area. Water mist will be used on dry days to reduce dust, and on average the quarry will produce less than 20 blasts per year. Blasting will only take place between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. weekdays.

“Aggregate materials are necessary for everyday life. We are fulfilling a need. Schools, hospitals, housing, roads and bridges all need aggregate. If we don’t meet the need, someone will. Without our industry, life would look very different.”

The planning board reviewed the project at its Nov. 9 meeting. Curtis told the board that its hours of operation for the quarry would be from 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 is not sure what Gorham Sand & Gravel will do if the moratorium is approved by voters.

“I honestly don’t know,” 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, the Deputy commissioner of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

A Notice of Intent to Comply is a signed statement from the operator, who commits to complying with DEP performance standards for quarries. Among those standards are maintaining undisturbed buffers to property lines, public roads, and protected natural resources. Once a Notice of Intent to Comply has been filed, the operator becomes subject to DEP compliance inspections and must pay an annual fee to the state.

Madore said that Gorham Sand & Gravel has not yet filed a Notice of Intent to Comply.


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