Sebago residents voted overwhelmingly this week to enact a moratorium that bans the development of new quarries, gravel pits and mines in the small, rural community near the shores of Sebago Lake.

Town Manager Michele Bukoveckas confirmed passage of the moratorium in an email. Bukoveckas said the moratorium, which will remain in effect for at least 180 days, passed by a show of hands at a special town meeting on Tuesday evening.

The moratorium will take effect immediately and can be renewed after six months. No changes were made to the language of the moratorium, which supporters put forward to prevent Gorham Sand & Gravel from operating a quarry off Route 11 in the town’s Village District.

A sign opposing the proposed quarry is posted on a tree on the property of Barry Jordan of Sebago. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Sebago Town Hall was packed with about 200 residents Tuesday evening. When the vote was taken, nearly everyone in the audience raised their hands in support of the moratorium.

“Fear won,” Mark Curtis, vice president of Gorham Sand & Gravel, said in an email he sent after the vote. “We will concentrate on a spectacular Thanksgiving with our families and assess the situation next week.”

In an interview before the vote, Curtis said he was not certain how his company would proceed if residents enacted the moratorium. But he made it clear that Buxton-based Gorham Sand & Gravel had done its due diligence before purchasing the property in April with plans to turn it into a quarry.

Sebago’s planning board accepted the company’s site plan proposal on Sept. 14 as complete. That was followed by a site walk on Sept. 25. On Oct. 12, there was a public hearing where abutters’ concerns were aired. Then in a letter sent to Bukoveckas on Nov. 1, Curtis told the town manager that his company had purchased the 200-acre quarry parcel off Route 11 in April after checking with the town to ensure the use was allowed in that zone.

Only 42 acres would ultimately be utilized – in phases – for extracting aggregate, a product used to build roads, bridges and paved surfaces. Curtis said the ability to remove aggregate from a site close to his business translates into lower costs for everyone who uses the materials.

“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.”

Residents objected to the quarry’s location, noting its proximity to the town’s elementary school and to several homes.

Prior to the vote, signs opposing the quarry started appearing in the town claiming that the quarry could lower property values, that there would be vibrations and noise caused by blasting, and that the quarry would generate in excess of 7,000 truck trips on Routes 11 and 114 in a year. Opponents also said the quarry could contaminate groundwater and create unhealthy levels of dust.

On Sunday, about 70 residents gathered on Route 11 to stage a protest against the quarry. They held signs that read “No Blasting in our Town” and “Don’t Get Buried by Gorham Sand & Gravel” while chanting “No Quarry.”

Several residents spoke out against the quarry at Tuesday’s Town Meeting, including Bev Buxton.

“With all due respect to the developer and his answers, I think at the end of the day this is our town. We need the moratorium so we can put together a committee to work on this issue in a way that protects this town,” Buxton told those in attendance.

The town plans to use the next 180 days to strengthen its land use ordinance and to develop regulations addressing the impact of any extraction industry. A committee consisting of six members already has been formed by the board of selectmen. The committee will eventually return to the town with a revised ordinance that is stronger than what Sebago currently has.

Barry Jordan, whose home is located about 1,000 feet from the proposed quarry, gathered 240 signatures on a petition in just three days to force the moratorium question. Jordan said he found widespread consensus that the proposed site was not appropriate.

“There were people from across the town who came to the meeting. The whole town jumped on board against having a quarry in the village district,” Jordan said. “It’s just not the place for a quarry. With 200 people voting, it sends a strong message that the town doesn’t want this thing.”

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