Cumberland council to dig through rules for gravel pits, water removal

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CUMBERLAND — Changes to the town’s gravel and water extraction ordinance will be among items discussed at a Town Council public hearing on Monday, Feb. 28.

The council in November enacted a 180-day moratorium on new applications for gravel pits and water extraction sites. The temporary ban was intended to give the town time to change its laws and determine how those uses put pressure on development.

The discussion is to go next to the Planning Board and then back to the Town Council for a final decision.

Moratorium talks were triggered when 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.

Cumberland’s ordinance subcommittee wants input from the council on two suggestions: to ban any commercial extraction of water except for municipal or quasi-municipal purposes, and to continue to allow gravel extraction as it is now permitted, but only through contract zoning.

Town Manager Bill Shane has said that contract zoning could address technical requirements for gravel pits that may be in sensitive areas. He noted that if a series of private wells could be impacted by an extraction operation, the impact could be monitored and quantified to determine whether water quality would be degraded or its quantity decreased.

Shane said monitoring could be on a site-by-site basis, rather than via a blanket ordinance.

Cumberland’s aquifers are beneath sand and gravel formations.

Gravel extraction is permitted in the town’s Rural Residential 1 and 2 zones, as well as its Industrial zone. Water extraction and bulk storage is allowed in those two Rural Residential zones along with the Low, Medium and Village Medium Density Residential zones.

The Feb. 28 meeting begins at Town Hall at 7 p.m., following a 6 p.m. workshop.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 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.