Cumberland council approves gravel pit restrictions

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CUMBERLAND — The Town Council unanimously approved a Planning Board recommendation to continue to allow gravel pits in the town’s Industrial Zone, but only through contract zoning.

The proposal originally included the towns two Rural Residential Zones. But a petition circulated by the Cumberland Environmental Action Network called for a gravel extraction ban in the two Rural Residential zones.

That petition went to referendum last month, where it passed, 862-507.

Town Manager Bill Shane said Monday that by requiring contract zones, “it will be more difficult to get a gravel extraction operation (approved) and will actually afford more protections to abutting residents, because of the new rules.”

The Town Council last November enacted a 180-day moratorium on new applications for gravel pits and water extraction sites. In March it extended that moratorium to June, until after the referendum.

The moratorium was enacted after Elvin Copp and his son, Randy Copp, expressed interest in a gravel pit and water extraction site on land Elvin owns off Upper Methodist Road, which borders the Maine Turnpike and the Falmouth town line.

They later opted not to apply for a permit until after a town review, but not before clear-cutting and earth removal occurred on the site without town permits, according to Shane.

Shane said on Monday that gravel extraction is now a non-permitted use in the two Rural Residential zones. But he noted that any Cumberland landowner could request such an operation in those zones through a contract zone, since gravel extraction is already a permitted use in one part of the town.

“Anything that’s listed in the zoning ordinance is allowed anywhere in town by a contract zone,” Shane said. “If we didn’t have gravel operations listed anywhere, then it would be prohibited everywhere.”

Shane doubted, though, that such a request would ever come before the town. And a contract zone would require some sort of public benefit in return for the Town Council approving such a request, he said.

The town can also impose stricter guidelines and regulations on a project permitted through a contract zone.

Shane noted that the town’s own gravel extraction operation, which is in the Industrial Zone, is the only one in existence in Cumberland.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.