Gravel Pit Subcommittee of the Select Board
Tuesday, May 5, 2020, 4:00 pm
Town offices and via Zoom
Attendees at Town Offices: Committee members Kathy Scott, Ryan Stone, Max Boyd, Wes Tarr, and Mike Davidson, and AOT consultant Don Scott
Members of the public via Zoom: Sherry Sims, Mary Day Mordecai, Winston Sims, Erik Anderson, Lisa Anderson, Margaret Ziegler, Catherine Neary, Scott Neary, Melody Moschan, Dan Petit, WZ – Store’s iPad??
Introductions and overview
Committee members introduced themselves. Kathy Scott opened by summarizing the agenda, noting the committee would review the regulatory and permitting requirements (155-E and 485A:17), identify the issues to be focused on, discussion among the committee, and then hear comments and questions from the public. She then stated that a site visit would be scheduled and that the schedule of meetings is as follows: Tuesday, May 19, 4:00 pm-6:00 pm, Tuesday, June 2, from 4:00 – 6:00pm, and a tentative Public Hearing to present Committee Findings with a written report could occur on Thursday, June 11th.
The Gravel Pit Warrant Article, Article #5, which passed at Town Meeting on March 10, 2020 was posted on the projection screen. (The complete language of the Warrant Article is attached.)
Ms. Scott then noted that the committee would address the relevant Federal Environmental Laws, “the Env 1500s”, the state and federal regulations covering the Alteration of Terrain Permit (AOT) requirements, 485-A:17, and also the 155-E requirements, which are the local controls. (A copy of these three sets of regulations is attached.)
Before beginning the presentation on relevant regulations, committee member and Eastview resident Max Boyd noted that, as a committee member, he received a packet of information and thanked Ms. Scott. He then noted it looked like the committee was appropriately selected and legal, based on the Warrant Article. He added that the problem is the perception – that local people question everything that happens about gravel. Mr. Boyd stated that, after talking to neighbors, they all knew a committee meeting would happen but they didn’t know when. The abutters were not notified, to the best of my knowledge. Mr. Boyd then asked why none of them was chosen to participate on the committee. He also wasn’t sure why he was. He reiterated that there is a tremendous amount of feeling down there, and that he feels, and they feel, that communication follows afterwards, after things happen.
Ms. Scott and the recording secretary noted that the meeting was posted on the website, and at town offices and the post office, and that the reason of the timing of the posting, 48 hours prior, was that the location of the meeting was not yet known given current conditions, nor the teleconferencing platform that the town would be using to allow the public to participate remotely. Mr. Boyd responded that, while he wasn’t questioning the legality of the posting, this caused continued sentiment among neighbors that they are being ignored, that it’s a strong perception, and its being reinforced. Kathy Scott encouraged people to come to the Select Board at any time with concerns, that information has been included in the meeting minutes and that people can contact town offices at any time with questions. Mr. Boyd just requested that his concerns be voiced. Ms. Scott also noted that it’s also incumbent upon individuals to take a step in the communication process, that the town has been available to respond to any questions or concerns.
Lisa Anderson stated that neighbors were told by the Select Board over a year ago that the Select Board would make every effort to improve communication about the sandpit. She added there was no communication with neighbors about the town’s plans to purchase the O’Neil pit. She noted an article did appear in Common Threadsshortly before Town Meeting. Ms. Scott noted that further discussion about this issue would have to wait for a Select Board meeting and that the purpose of today’s meeting was subcommittee work. She encouraged any neighbors concerned about the process to attend a Select Board meeting.
NHDES AOT Permit Process
Mr. Scott then presented slides outlining the AOT process via the NH Department of Environmental Services. A copy of these slides is attached.
Mr. Scott explained that the purpose of the AOT includes protecting surface waters, drinking water supplies and groundwater from construction activities and development. The AOT permit is required for projects in excess of 100,000 square feet of disturbance (50,000 square feet in protected shoreland, which is not the case for the town parcels), with controls for temporary erosion and loss of sediment as well as potential flooding and erosion of stream banks.
In discussions with Ridgely Mauck, engineer with DES who specializes in the AOT process, Mr. Scott learned that, without an AOT, the town cannot open any gravel areas not already opened or increase the terrain footprint to be excavated or remove vegetation, but it can continue to operate in the areas already opened and that are grandfathered into the existing permit conditions.
The AOT process involves three major components: 1) Hydrologic Analysis, or calculation of runoff from the property and how much of that runoff leaves the site. Mr. Scott noted that, since both gravel pits are completely self-contained with infiltration basins and there’s no exit for surface water coming off both properties, that analysis will not be required. This is the analysis which typically requires a stamped, licensed professional engineer. 2) The town will, however, need to complete a Sediment and Erosion Control plan,which identifies silt fences and berms and various components to stabilize slopes and any of the areas being worked on; and 3) Stormwater Control and Treatment, which includes the infiltration basins and any components that capture water and hold it long enough to infiltrate into the ground and continue to recharge our aquifer.
The Sediment and Erosion Control plan includes: 1) Sequencing, and whatever areas are open and then closed before moving on; 2) Perimeter controls, include silt fencing, gates and signage; 3) Construction entrancesand exits, which are heavy gravel beds where trucks enter and exit the site and deposit dirt and soil from tires before traveling on town roads; 4) Inlet and outlet protections, which doesn’t apply here given there is no water entering or exiting the parcels; 5) Runoff directed to temporary practices, or the infiltration basins and beds which already exist on the properties; 6) Slope protection and vegetation requirements, which involves the reclamation process and restabilization of slopes once areas are completed; and 7) Inspection requirements, which include a report every five years addressing how much material has been removed, and satisfaction of erosion control components.
The Stormwater Treatment Systems include the following: 1) Stormwater pondsor micro-ponds, which are the infiltration areas; 2) Stormwater wetlands; 3) Gravel wetlands; 4) Infiltration practices; 5) Filtering practices, like silt fencing and berms; 6) Treatment Swalesto slow water and filter sediments; and 7) Vegetated buffersfor screening and controlling surface water.
The final part of the AOT addresses Reclamation practices and how the pit will need to be reclaimed after completion of excavation.
Kathy Scott then reviewed the 155-E regulations, noting the town is not required to permit itself but that the regulations are relevant for Department of Revenue and taxation requirements. There is some overlap , she noted, of 155-E regulations and AOT requirements for property that has less than 100,000 of disturbance, or open area. This calculation has to do, not with the volume or depth of material excavated from below ground, but with total square footage of vegetation and land that is disturbed.
Under 155-E, environmental controls are in place for disturbance of less than 100,000 square feet. The committee anticipates managing these through the AOT permit process. The town still must comply with these controls and still must reclaim. The committee’s charge, she added, is to review 155-E, focusing on the municipal use of a gravel pit. Ms. Scott then distributed the relevant sections of these regulations, in addition to having them projected on the screen.
155-E:2, 155-E:4(a) and 155 E:5 are the sections which address municipal use. The town must comply with Minimum and Express operational standards and Minimum and Express Reclamation Standards. Kathy Scott also referred to the checklist of requirements, used by the town Planning Board.
Operating standards 1 through 12 overlap with the AOT. Standards 13 through 16 are not under the AOT, but the committee will understand and address these through 155-E. Standard #17 as well as the Reclamation requirements would be covered under the AOT process.
Ms. Scott reiterated that, once an AOT is obtained, DES would conduct a review of activity every five years, until the town ceased operations.
Mike Davidson of the committee asked if the O’Neil’s permit was still valid. Ms. Scott replied that it is, as long as the area of excavation permitted to the O’Neils is not expanded; in other words, what already is open can be worked on. Otherwise, an AOT is required. Mr. Davidson wondered why any work would be done on an area that already has been opened? Ms. Scott noted that the area of good material identified lies between the two parcels, which would require opening more land and the need for an AOT. It was confirmed that the O’Neil never obtained an AOT because the amount of land disturbed, less than 100,000 square feet, did not trigger the need for one.
Max Boyd asked about sound issues, and whether they fall under a different RSA. Kathy noted that noise, or sound, is addressed in 155-e. She added that the town itself does not have a noise ordinance.
Mike Davidson asked Wes Tarr how much material he thinks he needs. Mr. Tarr responded that he thinks he has enough material in the town’s existing pit for the next 8 years. Mr. Davidson then asked, with what the town has now, do we need the AOT permit immediately? Mr. Scott that we do, if we want to excavate beyond any already open areas and that the town pit is grandfathered, but the O’Neil pit is not. The state looks at both together so, to expand work on either parcel would trigger the AOT process.
Mr. Davidson then asked why the town wouldn’t be reclaiming any area right now to lessen the open area. According to Mr. Mauck, the process doesn’t work that way, given that those areas weren’t part of an AOT originally. To continue to open new areas just by reclaiming those already excavated wouldn’t protect the public. Mr. Davidson clarified he was referring more to the cost to the town, noting the more you expand, the more the gravel costs, and that some of the more expensive material to excavate is between the two parcels. Mr. Davidson wondered whether abutters and concerned neighbors understand, looking at 155-E, how much material Mr. Tarr needed following the storm and how much they heard, versus what would be needed this year, and that he may not need today or tomorrow, what lies in the buffer between the two pits. To Mr. Davidson, to continue to encumber the town as far as expense doesn’t make sense compared to his commercial operation and the immense difference .
Wes Tarr then explained, for what he needs now, he’d probably only need to work in the town pit a couple of days. He added that there also is some material readily available in the O’Neil pit. Ryan Stone reiterated that, given the town is the customer and no one else, it looks like our immediate needs could be met and that the AOT could be pursued in the coming year or so for future needs, while still moving the process forward. Mr. Davidson further stated there wouldn’t be tree cutting, digging and gravel screening, as would be required for a 12 week commercial operation. Mr. Stone added that we need to remind ourselves that the extra heavy traffic last year was due to an immediate emergency and that the committee needs to keep in mind how to mitigate such a situation, and heavy traffic, from moving through the neighborhood. He also noted the importance of keeping the residents informed, which he suspected may not be happening sufficiently.
Discussion then turned to the plan by Mr. Tarr to upgrade the road, especially between the two parcels to eliminate the sharp and dangerous corner that now exists. This would provide safe and efficient hauling that would allow for easier entering and exiting on Hancock Road. This can be done without the AOT and prevent the need to use Jaquith Road to enter and exit. Mr. Tarr confirmed that, after the fall, there isn’t need for any operation in the pit unless there is an emergency. Mr. Stone stated that, in any case, we need to remember what we learned from December of 2018.
Mike Davidson asked how long the Anderson’s house has been there. Committee members noted that there has been a house, or other, structure there since the 1800s. The gravel pit was purchased in 1963 from a saw miller, and that a railroad stockyard had existed there as well. Mr. Davidson recommended visiting that parcel to see what they see, to see if it makes sense to plant trees or vegetate in some way to mitigate visual impact. Lisa Anderson clarified that they can see on the O’Neil side. She added that the Neary’s farm has also been there since the 1800s.
Mike Davidson stated his experience, as a nearby resident, is that the amount of work time in the pit is insignificant and he doesn’t know when the Highway crew has been in or out of it. Max Boyd added that he is impressed at how the town pit looks and how the town has maintained its operation. He believes Wes and the Highway Department have done a great job, notwithstanding the misfortune that there are houses around it. He believes we are lucky and fortunate to have Mr. Tarr, and hopes he continues on with his excellent skill.
Following Mr. Scott’s raising of the matter of prior noise complaints from sifting, Mr. Tarr stated that sifting occurs about 7 days out of the whole year. The amount of noise is determined by dryness of conditions or lack thereof. When the sand is very wet, as it was the year of the storm, it makes more noise to get it through. On the subject of crushing, Max Boyd asked if Mr. Kallman’s suggestion that crushing will need to be done in the near future (the last time was in 2011 for the town’s landfill) was something that would likely be needed, and that this sounded like a major operation. Wes stated the storm really depleted the town’s supply. He then clarified what is involved with crushing and the timeframe. He explained that in general, barring a significant weather event or abnormal circumstances, a week’s worth of crushing yields several years’ worth, probably four of material.
Kathy Scott noted that having an outside crushing company come in to do the work is something the committee would consider and discuss. This would involve shore term, intensive work. The annual need for town use is approximately 8,000 cubic yards.
Ryan Stone asked about regional support, collaboration with other town. Kathy Scott and Wes Tarr confirmed that towns don’t buy gravel from each other but that they’ll assist when needed.
Committee members again confirmed that a site visit would take place immediately prior to the next subcommittee meeting, which is scheduled for two weeks from today, Tuesday, May 19, at 4:00 pm.
During the final portion of committee discussion, the questions arose as to parts of the pit that are ready for reclamation. Kathy Scott noted that the reclamation plan is part of the regulatory requirements and an area the committee is charged with focusing on. Max Boyd subsequently asked if the committee and town could consider converting a portion of the pit into a parking area for access to the Jaquith Road trail as a gesture for the community. Members will discuss this further, agreeing it would be a nice idea.
Lisa Anderson returned to a concern she raised previously with the town that the O’Neil’s permit was for the excavation of 19,000 cubic yards with an end date and now the town proposes continuing the operation with removal of up to five times more. She emphasized the noise disturbance in the residential neighborhood and requested that the town hire an acoustical engineer to measure the impact. She also requested noise mitigation through reclamation and emphasized the during of the project and concern on the impact on property values in an otherwise desirable, quiet residential neighborhood.
Kathy Scott responded that the committee will be addressing attempts to mitigate noise; however, it was unlikely given the high expense that an acoustical engineer would be hired. Ms. Anderson responded that this was evidence that the town did not care about residents and their quality of life.
Sherry Sims, former Co-Chair of the Planning Board during the permitting process for the O’Neil pit, also addressed concern about the residential neighborhood, noting the lengthy discussion about this at the time. The board also had addressed concern about access onto Jaquith Road by restricting commercial vehicle use to the operation’s Hancock Road access/egress. She is concerned that what the town wants to do will change the quality of the neighborhood, and believes there are ways to mitigate the visual and noise impacts. The committee noted that the type and schedule of work by the town would be incremental and intermittent, and would not occur daily or even weekly except on very rare occasions. Ms. Sims stated that even intermittent use intrudes on quality of life.
To Winston Sims’s question about whether or not the town had gotten an appraisal, the committee noted the property had already been purchased and that the town not only considered the assessed value as determined by the assessor, but, in addition, the amount and quality of material based on current market rates. The committee subsequently confirmed that all access and egress would be via Hancock Road.
Catherine Neary spoke to the visual impact, noting her concern that it is worsening. She then asked about the reclamation plan. Melody Moschan stated she and Dan Petit, who live in the neighborhood, believe the operation is a visual eyesore. Erik Anderson voiced frustration that no actual abutters were selected to serve on the committee and wondered how the process was determined, that it doesn’t seem like a fair representation. The committee responded that the goal was to adhere to the mandate of the Warrant Article to have representation of town officials, citizens and subject matter experts. Max Boyd noted that the Select Board seems to have met the legal requirement but that the perception among immediate neighbors is that they were excluded.
Lisa Anderson commented about dust a major concern, and believes Houghton Road residents will be affected too.
Kathy Scott responded that the committee hears the three major concerns raised by neighbors: noise, visual impact and plans for reclaiming the open areas. These will all be addressed as part of committee work.
Site visit/Next meeting
The committee determined that it would meet for the site visit at 3:00 pm on Tuesday, May 19th, in the parking area of the Hancock Road entrance driveway of the town gravel pit. The site visit is open to the public. The committee will bring a copy of the boundary survey. The focus of the site visit will include assessment of existing operations, strategy for maximizing readily available material and options for removal in a way that moves operations away from abutters plan and, as much as possible, mitigates impacts.
Immediately following the site visit, the subcommittee will proceed with its second meeting at Town Offices. Remote access to this meeting will be provided via Zoom. Anyone experiencing difficulty accessing the meeting should call the Town Office Conference Room at 603-827-3431 (extension 26).
The meeting adjourned at 6:00 pm.