Cumberland voters ban gravel pits, elect Gruber

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CUMBERLAND — Voters on Tuesday banned gravel pits in the town’s two Rural Residential zones.

They overwhelmingly supported a referendum on the ban, 862-507.

Voters also elected Thomas Gruber to an at-large Town Council seat. He received 594 votes, defeating Michael Edes with 450 and Sally Leavitt with 313. Gruber will replace Jeff Porter, who chose not to run again after 12 years on the council.

“I’m very excited about getting the opportunity to represent our town at a different level,” said Gruber, who will step down from the Planning Board to serve on the council. “… I just feel honored.”

Retired from the U.S. Army and the health-care field, Gruber also sits on Cumberland’s Lands and Conservation, Shellfish and Coastal Waters commissions.

Councilor William Stiles ran uncontested for re-election to his Cumberland Center seat and received 1,151 votes.

Robert Vail and William Richards were also uncontested for their seats on the School Administrative District 51 Board of Directors and received 1,047 and 903 votes, respectively.

William Lunt III of Falmouth, incumbent for the Portland Water District Board of Trustees, ran uncontested and received 1,148 votes.

The gravel extraction referendum was triggered by a petition drive by a citizens group, the Cumberland Environmental Action Network.

West Cumberland resident Teri Maloney-Kelly, the founder of the network, said Tuesday night that “we’re really thankful that the citizens got out to vote, and it really was truly about commercial land extraction, and everybody else’s property rights are still in place. … I think this really secures the future of the residential neighborhoods in Cumberland.”

Town Manager Bill Shane said Tuesday that the ban would go into effect immediately.

The Town Council enacted a 180-day moratorium on new applications for gravel pits and water extraction sites last November. In March it extended that moratorium to June 28.

The Planning Board had in part reviewed a Town Council ordinance subcommittee proposal that the town continue to permit gravel extraction, but only through contract zoning. But the ban takes precedence.

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 decided 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.

A stop work order was issued last fall after allegations were made concerning the activities, and Cumberland notified DEP of the matter. Shane said in February that the Copps are working with DEP on a mitigation plan.

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.