Cumberland petition forces referendum on gravel pits

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CUMBERLAND — A petition drive has gathered enough signatures to send changes in gravel pit rules to a June 14 referendum.

Town Clerk Tammy O’Donnell said she certified 600 signatures submitted March 31 by a citizen’s group, the Cumberland Environmental Action Network. O’Donnell said she stopped counting at 600, since the required 591 had been reached.

West Cumberland resident Teri Maloney-Kelly, the founder of the network, said Tuesday that the group spent 10 days actively collecting signatures, which were due back to the town April 11, and that it collected more than 660.

“We are very pleased with the response and support from the taxpayers of the town of Cumberland,” she wrote in an email. “Many residents were very surprised to know that in 2011 an industrial business could still open within the residential zones in the Town. We look forward to the referendum in June so the residents can make their voice heard and protect our natural resources and the future of our residential neighborhoods in Cumberland.”

According to a draft meeting agenda for Monday, April 11, the Town Council will hold a public hearing to accept the validated signatures and schedule the referendum.

The Town Council last month extended to June 28 a moratorium on new applications for gravel pits and water extraction sites. It initially enacted a 180-day moratorium last November.

The council also sent proposed ordinance changes for gravel and water extraction to the Planning Board in February, language that will ultimately return to the council for a decision.

But the referendum would take precedence over the language being considered by the Planning Board and council.

The Planning Board on April 18 is scheduled to review a Town Council ordinance subcommittee proposal that Cumberland continue to allow gravel extraction as it is now permitted, but only through contract zoning.

But the petition calls for a gravel extraction ban in Cumberland’s two Rural Residential zones. Gravel extraction is currently allowed in those zones, and in the town’s Industrial zone.

Shane said last month that the Planning Board’s recommendations may be ready for Town Council action by late May. Extending the moratorium allowed the council to postpone the matter until after the referendum.

If the referendum fails, the council could adopt the new zoning language recommended by the Planning Board on June 27, one day before the moratorium expires. If the referendum passes, its proposed language will take effect June 14.

Main Street, Doane property

The draft April 11 Town Council agenda also includes a public hearing on amendments to zoning on Main Street that were recommended by the Cumberland Town Center Advisory Committee. The council tabled discussion of the matter last month.

Last December the Planning Board deadlocked 3-3 on whether to recommend the zoning changes, which would allow businesses on part of Main Street. The new Town Center District would include Main Street between Tuttle Road and Moss Side Cemetery.

A public hearing on a contract zone agreement with Bateman Partners for the first phase of the Doane Property Revitalization Project is also on the draft agenda. The Planning Board recommends the agreement.

The 40.7-acre property, which is planned to be a 59-lot residential subdivision, is in the Village Mixed-Use Zone.

Portland-based Bateman wants minor changes to what the zone allows and seeks a contract zone instead of a more cumbersome total rezoning.

The changes include one sidewalk instead of two along the road running through the subdivision, and reduced street frontage for some buildings.

The April 11 meeting will be held at Town Hall at 7 p.m. A workshop with the Town Center Advisory Committee liaisons will start one hour earlier.

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.