Cumberland council sets hearing for moratorium on gravel pits

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CUMBERLAND — The Town Council voted Monday to hold a public hearing Nov. 8 on a proposed 180-day moratorium on gravel pits and water extraction sites.

The discussion was scheduled after Elvin Copp and his son, Randy Copp, said they intended to seek a permit for a pit on land Elvin owns off Upper Methodist Road, bordering the Maine Turnpike and the Falmouth town line. They later agreed not to apply until the town has reviewed the matter.

Extraction of earth is permitted in the town’s Rural Residential 1 and 2 districts. Water removal, pumping and bulk storage is allowed in those districts as well the Low Density Residential district. Those zones include about 80 percent of the households in town, West Cumberland resident Teri Maloney-Kelly told the Town Council last month.

She asked the council to review the uses and noted that the removal or processing of gravel is an industrial use that is not conducive to a residential neighborhood.

She also said “heavy dump truck traffic generated by this type of activity is a safety hazard for pedestrians, bike riders and vehicle traffic on our roads.”

Maloney-Kelly added that the weight of the vehicles damages the roads they travel, and that the noise pollution caused by such an operation is “not what one would expect to have to endure in a residential zone.”

Matthew Manahan of Pierce Atwood, the firm representing the Copps, said Monday that a moratorium is unnecessary, and that his clients are “committed to working with the town (and) working with the neighbors to address the concerns.

“This is, in their view, a good site for a gravel pit,” Manahan said. “It will meet all of the (Maine Department of Environmental Protection) requirements, there will be sufficient buffers for noise and dust, and they’re committed to addressing the operating hours at the facility so that it won’t be an unreasonable interference.”

Manahan noted that the town has had gravel pits, including its own, and that the site the Copps are eyeing was used for that purpose in the past.

Randy Copp said Tuesday that he plans to enhance the site and improve its scenic views. He added that he wants to be able to keep the property in the family, and does not intend for it to be a perpetual gravel pit.

Shane, who said the majority of gravel pits in town are west of the Maine Turnpike, noted that if the Town Council approves the moratorium it will likely send the issue to its ordinance subcommittee for review.

The Town Council voted unanimously to hold the Nov. 8 public hearing. Councilor Ron Copp, who is related to Elvin and Randy Copp, did not take part in the discussion and did not vote.

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net.

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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.