Gravel Pit Subcommittee Meeting Minutes
Tuesday, June 2, 2020
Town offices and via zoom
The Gravel Pit Subcommittee of the Select Board held a public work session on Tuesday, June 2, 2020 at 4:00 pm at Town Offices, 705 Chesham Road.
Committee members attending: Ryan Stone Chairman, Kathy Scott, Max Boyd, Mike Davidson, Wes Tarr, Don Scott (consultant) Members of the public via zoom: Erik Masterson, Connie Boyd, Erik Anderson, Lisa Anderson, Mary Desrosiers
Ryan Stone noted that the purpose of this meeting was a work session and would not include public comment. He reviewed the rules of behavior to allow all committee members the opportunity to speak.
All members approved of the agenda as distributed and posted on screen.
Minutes of previous meeting 5/19/2020
Mr. Stone referred to the requested amendment from an abutter. The recording secretary recommended adding Ms. Anderson’s comments as an addendum to these minutes in the public file. The committee agreed. The requested amendment included addressing four nonconformities and five items total, including: a 50’ boundary to the Harris Center property; non-compliance with road levels and the depth of excavation (the committee noted this was beyond the 50’ buffer); the 50’ buffer to the Anderson property not maintained; the deeded right of way to the Anderson property’s well not maintained; and reference to noise by decibel level.
Max Boyd also noted that two references to the number of working days required by the Highway Department were inconsistent. Wes Tarr confirmed the second reference was accurate. Without further discussion, all members voted in favor to approve the minutes with the amendments and additions.
The committee had no additional comments or questions about the previous week’s site visit.
Legal interpretation of Warrant Article
Members read Town Counsel’s opinion on the language of the complete Warrant Article as adopted in March. Ryan Stone summarized Mr. Little’s letter, stating the purpose of the purchase, from the Article language itself and the Minutes of Town Meeting, is intended acquisition of road material and, thus, the subcommittee’s work should pertain primarily to gravel pit operations until their completion, as it would be premature to consider future residents’ and future town officials’ needs and interests. Mr. Stone noted that this opinion offered a clear mandate for the scope of committee work, but that he still felt it important to consider the concerns of neighbors. Committee members added that the intention of RSA 155-E is to keep property surroundings in mind. Ms. Scott confirmed that NHMA had not yet responded with its interpretation.
For the benefit of all attending, Mr. Stone then read aloud Mr. Little’s opinion (Copy attached). Kathy Scott added she had spoken to Mr. Little who advised that the language not be taken out of context. He believes the words uses and conditions of use relate to the guidelines outlined in RSA 155-E. While the committee could have a wish list of future uses, Town Counsel doesn’t feel they necessarily pertain but these possibilities could be considered for the time following completion of extraction and the committee now should focus on the best way to extract. Mr. Stone noted he doesn’t feel this releases the committee from being neighborly.
Preliminary outline of uses for committee report
Mr. Stone shared his draft spread sheet to list potential uses. These include: earth excavation, sifting, shaking, timber logging and clearing, stockpiling aggregate, crushing/hammering (at a location on the parcel further away from neighbors), bringing materials on to site to combine (e.g., asphalt, glass or construction debris) or haul off, stump storage, and usage and equipment storage and maintenance. In addition, Mr. Scott drafted a list of noise and dust mitigating options for committee discussion later in the meeting. Members then confirmed with the Road Agent there would be no storage of fuel on site; however the crusher may need to be refueled by transporting fuel on site via a highway vehicle. Mr. Stone noted he would fill in the spread sheet based on the committee’s discussion and share it with the committee for their review.
Moving on to conditions surrounding these uses, Mr. Stone listed the following: hours of operation; compliance with 155e and AOT regulations; noise and dust mitigation; reclamation and incremental reclamation of areas; staging areas for crushing/hammering /breaking; use of access road/ upgrade of interior road; direction of excavation activities (toward or away from abutting properties and entrances), and nonhazardous material storage only.
In elaboration on the directional activity of excavation, Ms. Scott noted the need to heed the expertise of the Road Agent and Mr. Davidson regarding locations of needed material and the most expeditious way to remove it. Mr. Stone agreed it’s important the committee does not constrain or micromanage the operations. Mr. Davidson again noted the town’s needs are much different, much less, from a commercial operator’s. Kathy Scott these would be recommendations for the long-term, not to be removed or changed in the coming years.
The committee returned to recommended hours of operation, keeping in mind the Highway crew’s work schedule and excepting emergencies. Following discussion, the committee tentatively recommends the pit could be open 7am -5 pm but no noise-generating activity would occur prior to 8:00 am, and only between general operating hours of 8:00 am – 4:00 pm.
Some need may arise in the future, as for special projects in the past, to outsource crushing operations and/or modify these hours based on the contractors’ schedules. These would be special circumstances that could involve noticing neighbors. The committee agreed they don’t want to restrict activity based on the season.
The committee revisited the unique conditions and needs of the Fall of 2018 and how this same scenario wouldn’t occur in the future. It was reconfirmed that the Jaquith Road access would not be used as long as this remains a gravel operation. The committee also discussed when communication is appropriate or more necessary and how this would be carried out.
During emergencies, the committee would recommend no specific limitations except the communication of information via the website or in board meeting minutes. Mr. Boyd emphasized that, in unusual circumstances that would involve disruption and dissention, information should be posted on the website. Mr. Stone agreed. The committee will recommend a specific process for this.
Specific use conditions
Staging areas for crushing and sifting – The Road Agent noted the expediency of having the screen in close proximity to the vehicle. The goal is to handle the material once. He added that there is rarely much dust. Kathy Scott pointed to the minimal distances, 150’ from an existing dwelling , as required by 155-E. Mr. Scott noted on the map where this would be, explaining the additional buffers already in place. At this point it looks like activity would occur at a much further distance. The general consensus was to stick to the existing regulation requirements. Mr. Scott added that no additional excavation was foreseen along the Jaquith Road boundary.
Mr. Scott then described how the existing terrain with additional plantings and berming could substantially mitigate noise and visual impact. Because of existing topography, the location of the Anderson’s well, the existing valley to protect the well, and the drainage swale toward Hancock Road, Mr. Scott believes that this valley has created a megaphone effect in the direction of the Anderson parcel. He suggested a berm on the backside of the well, in addition to evergreen plantings, would substantially mitigate sound. He stated the berm should be at least 8 or 9 feet to match the existing berm on the Jaquith Road side. As for the other neighbors, there’s already a 100’+ foot screen of evergreens, and more could be added in this buffer for noise abatement in the winter months. The committee discussed costs and how these efforts could be funded, the budgeting of which will be solidified once a survey is done. Transplanting of smaller hemlocks also is possible.
To Mr. Boyd’s question about whether the AOT reclamation requirements would help, Mr. Scott responded that the planting of evergreens yields three effects: visual screening, noise abatement and dust mitigation. Mr. Scott also has documentation from the Washington Post that “mixed broadleaf plantings of at least 25 feet thick and conifers 50 to 100 feet thick can drop noise levels up to 10 decibels and year round noise reduction of plants and mix of evergreens” serve as effective sound barriers when foliage reaches close to the ground.
On the neighbor’s request for a noise study, Mr. Stone stated the committee will discuss the various berming and planting options to ascertain what might work best for surrounding neighbors and asked the committee if it wanted to discuss the hiring of a local engineer. The committee made no recommendation on this. Mr. Scott shared an additional statement from the Washington Post article that “The best way to reduce noise is to establish a soil berm for your plantings…” which does a better job than plantings alone. The recommended dimensions are 8’ high and 20’ feet wide as needed along a boundary. Ryan Stone then shared information from the NH DOT on noise barrier programs for members to review. (Get copy from Ryan to attach to minutes). Mr. Boyd asked if it were possible to try Mr. Scott’s recommendations and then reassess if this doesn’t alleviate neighbors’ complaints. The committee discussed that the only way to eliminate noise is to stop it, adding the possibility of neighbors planting on their own property to increase the buffer. Referring to dust mitigation, Mr. Tarr reiterated there has never been much dust in the pit.
Returning to the location of the well, the committee discussed how a berm could be raised around it to protect it, without obstructing operations and maintaining the necessary drainage. The committee noted that requests for buffer areas above and beyond the distances outlined in the regulations, abutters must declare themselves as “disagreeable” by submitting an official letter to the Select Board. Members added that, given that the area along the Anderson’s property line will not be excavated further, reclamation can begin to occur there this year. It was suggested that the town should commit to a timeline on this, and that berming, loaming, seeding and some planting should be done prior to commencement of activity in the O’Neil pit. This could be one of the committee’s recommendations, as feasible, based on the need for material.
The Road Agent stated that this reclamation, along the Anderson and Jaquith Road boundaries, could possibly be completed by Fall 2021. Mr. Stone noted this timeline also could allow for feedback from abutters. Other areas to be reclaimed would be delineated during the AOT process. The committee will recommend increasing the buffer from 50 to 100’ along Jaquith Road. Mr. Tarr confirmed that this year the Highway Department is just interested in sand, not gravel, in the O’Neil pit and this is usually accumulated in October and November for the winter ahead. He anticipates needing 1600 or 1700 yards this year. The committee could recommend that this be allowed activity.
The chair summarized that partial reclamation along the Anderson property would occur beginning in 2020 and along the Jaquith border in 2021. The timing of future reclamation would be timed based on AOT requirements. The committee agreed that it would recommend that the buffer on the North side along the Jaquith Road rail trail should be restored, also in 2021. Additional funding could require a Warrant Article at Town Meeting; however, the Select Board has already established a capital reserve fund for gravel pit operations.
Finally, the committee addressed future uses to the extent that they agreed these would be addressed by a future committee and town officials. The committee also will recommend in the report the upgrading of haul and access roads, a commitment already made by the Select Board and Road Agent.
Mr. Stone informed members, based on the meeting input, he will prepare the report outline and share with committee prior to the next meeting. The tentative schedule had called for a hearing on June 11. The committee instead would like to meet again June 16 at 4:00 with tentative hearing date to present findings at a public hearing on Thursday, June 25.
The meeting adjourned at 6:20 pm.