Valley Information – Property proprietor, Eastman residents dig in for combat over gravel pit plan

ENFIELD — Enfield and Grantham residents, lots of whom dwell in Eastman, are organizing to cease a proposed gravel pit operation on Bathroom Highway over considerations about its influence on the deliberate residing neighborhood’s water provide.

“It’s actually on prime of the aquifer,” Barry Cunningham, an abutter who lives within the Grantham part of Eastman, mentioned throughout an Enfield Planning Board listening to in regards to the pit proposed by Artwork Conkey, of Conkey Enterprises. Cunningham referenced a map from U.S. Geological Survey that reveals an aquifer underneath the property.

Conkey, who bought the 95-acre property in June for $175,000 from the property of David Hastings, now could be asking the Enfield Planning Board for a allow to reopen — and broaden — the on-site gravel pit. If the board permits the enlargement, it might whole about 12 acres. In his allow utility, Conkey, who has operated one other pit on Bathroom Highway for greater than 25 years, indicated he would take 500 cubic yards of sand and grit from the pit in query this yr.

“The remainder of the land we’re leaving vacant,” Conkey mentioned throughout the assembly. Since buying the pit in June, Conkey has been logging the property, which is situated in Enfield and Grantham on the Springfield, N.H., border, however just isn’t a part of Eastman. He’s within the technique of making an attempt to close down and reclaim a separate pit that he has owned at 475 Bathroom Highway for greater than 20 years.

The Planning Board is proscribed in what they’ll deny the allow for; the state of New Hampshire is chargeable for regulating water high quality. In line with Enfield’s native excavation rules, the Planning Board can solely deny a allow for 9 causes: three contain buffer zones, and three contain water. The state is the physique that should make the ruling on the water, which occurs throughout the state allow course of. The board can even deny a allow if it “could be unduly hazardous or injurious to the general public welfare.”

Throughout a Wednesday assembly attended by dozens of individuals in individual and just about, the Planning Board declined to make a ruling on Conkey’s allow and as a substitute requested him to compile extra data and reappear on the board’s Sept. 14 assembly. New Hampshire legislation requires gravel pit house owners to supply a reclamation plan for all gravel pits — what they may do with the property as soon as they’ve excavated all of the supplies. Conkey mentioned he would flip it right into a pond however did present a concise plan.

“If there’s any sediment draining, it drains it into the pond so it doesn’t go away the positioning,” Conkey mentioned.

Among the many residents’ best considerations is the influence on the aquifer, an underground water system that provides water to Eastman residents, who dwell in Enfield, Grantham and Springfield. In addition they are involved about noise and the influence on roads and wildlife within the space, mentioned Wendy Wormwood, an Eastman resident who lives in Enfield. There is also a stream known as Little Brook that runs by way of the property.

“If it’s contaminated, what would occur to the water?” Wormwood requested in an interview earlier than Wednesday night time’s assembly. “What occurs to the aquifer if one thing occurs?”

In the course of the assembly, Conkey mentioned his firm has dug check pits to determine the place the water desk begins. In line with New Hampshire Division of Environmental Companies’ Greatest Administration Practices for Groundwater Safety, gravel pit operators should make certain the tools they use doesn’t leak gas or different liquids that may contaminate the water supply or the soil. If the soil surrounding the aquifer is contaminated, the aquifer is also broken.

“It’s not one thing that’s going to be 100 vehicles a day,” Conkey mentioned. After the present yr, he didn’t say what number of yards he anticipated they might take out yearly and mentioned that within the rapid future, he wouldn’t have a crushing operation — utilizing equipment to crush materials into smaller items — on the property.

The noise from a possible crushing operation was amongst a listing of considerations from Eastman residents introduced up by Steve Schneider, who leads the Eastman Neighborhood Affiliation and beforehand served as Enfield’s city supervisor.

“The truck visitors is a priority for us,” he mentioned on the assembly, noting that the pit is in a residential space. He requested that the board prohibit vehicles from the gravel pit utilizing roads in Eastman, until they’ve a selected function for being there. He additionally requested that the positioning not develop into a storage website for tools apart from what is required to extract supplies from the pit, to be able to shield the aquifer from any potential spills of hazardous supplies, like gas.

“Storing of outdoor supplies and tools is a authentic and truthful concern of ours,” Schneider mentioned.

He additionally requested that the Planning Board restrict any exercise on the website to “regular enterprise hours” as a result of it’s a residential space, and if crushing ultimately occurs on the positioning, it solely takes place in the future every week.

“We’ve some actual considerations in regards to the depth of this operation,” he mentioned. “Our place is that it’s Mr. Conkey’s accountability to show that the exercise that he’s proposing isn’t going to influence that aquifer, and we don’t have any information to assist that at this second.”

Planning Board Chairman David Fracht requested Conkey if he would comply with circumstances that might restrict vehicles from the gravel pit utilizing roads in Eastman and he agreed.

“So far as vehicles going by way of Eastman, no offense, however anybody could be an fool to undergo Eastman,” Conkey mentioned. “The roads are all sharp, they’re hilly, you bought pace bumps. It’s a nightmare for a truck.”

He mentioned he would comply with circumstances that might restrict working hours from Monday to Friday. Fracht additionally said that if the gravel pit allow was authorised, it might be topic to annual investigation by the city to ensure it was in compliance, together with that excavation was going down the place the allow mentioned it might.

One other level of consternation amongst residents was Conkey’s refusal to permit members of the conservation fee to come back onto the land to have a look at wetlands and a beaver dam. Jerold Theis, chairman of the Enfield Conservation Fee, requested the Planning Board to rent somebody to conduct a geological survey to see how far the aquifer goes into Conkey’s property.

Conkey responded that there was not a beaver dam on the property. “What we had, we had a clogged up culvert which we cleaned the culvert out,” he mentioned.

Taylor confirmed that Conkey just isn’t required to permit members of the conservation fee on his property. He added later within the assembly that he didn’t need anybody on his property throughout an lively logging operation.

The gravel pits on Bathroom Highway have been established within the Nineteen Sixties, mentioned Rob Taylor, Enfield’s land use and neighborhood improvement administrator, in addition to its zoning administrator. For a time, there have been round six gravel pits; through the years that quantity dwindled to 3. One pit, referred to as the Crate pit, has closed and is within the technique of being become a horse coaching facility. The remaining two at the moment are owned by Conkey.

The gravel pits predate Enfield’s zoning ordinance, which was established in 1991. The world the place the pit in query is situated is zoned for residential and agriculture makes use of. A gravel pit just isn’t categorized as a kind of makes use of, however because the pits predate the zoning ordinance, they’re allowed.

“We mentioned, ‘Oh, you’ve bought a enterprise in a residential zone; you have been right here earlier than zoning was right here, you may preserve it,’ ” Taylor defined in an interview earlier than the Planning Board assembly. He added that materials from the gravel pits alongside Bathroom Highway was used to construct each Eastman and Interstate 89.

If a gravel pit stays inactive for longer than two years, an proprietor is required to reapply for a allow, Taylor mentioned. That applies regardless if the pit has modified palms. Gravel pit house owners are required to submit a report annually in regards to the quantity of fabric taken from the pit in order that the city can tax it. The final time Hastings, who died in 2019, filed a report was 2016.

That has led to a different level of competition: Whether or not or not the pit was deserted and is now not grandfathered underneath the city’s zoning necessities. In line with a 1976 New Hampshire Supreme Courtroom ruling, Lawlor v. City of Salem, that established abandonment of use, a property’s present use should meet two necessities to be thought of deserted.

“No. 1: It is advisable cease utilizing it as a pit that was grandfathered, for which you’ll most likely say he did when he died, however No. 2: You must do one thing deliberately to say this was the brand new use when he died and that completes that abandonment,” Taylor mentioned.

He in contrast it to a different case in Enfield the place the precedent didn’t apply: Years in the past, an individual bought a marina on Mascoma Lake and started utilizing it as a single-family residence. In a while, the proprietor determined that they needed to start out utilizing it as a marina, however as a result of that they had already began utilizing it one other for one more function, they weren’t allowed to take action.

“Using this pit as a gravel pit has been established as a result of he was right here properly earlier than we had zoning and (Hastings) didn’t intend to desert the use when he died,” Taylor mentioned. The Planning Board agreed with Taylor’s evaluation that the gravel pit was grandfathered in.

Cunningham disagreed with that evaluation and mentioned that Taylor was misinterpreting the statute.

“Clearly it wasn’t meant. Mr. Hastings died. However the exercise report confirmed that this has been inactive formally … since 2016,” he mentioned. “So we’re well beyond the 2 years.”

Taylor countered that Hastings didn’t intend to desert using the pit. On the time of his loss of life, there have been nonetheless piles of supplies that had not but been trucked out. Hastings additionally didn’t begin the reclamation course of for the gravel pit, which reveals he was nonetheless utilizing it as a pit, Taylor mentioned.

“I feel the truth that the city is requiring a brand new utility signifies that it’s type of previous that deserted grandfathered stage. That timeframe is gone,” Schneider mentioned in an interview earlier than the assembly. “I feel as a result of the city is requiring a complete new utility, that the query of whether or not it’s grandfathered or deserted is moot. They’re treating it as if it’s a brand new operation, which it’s.”

No matter which method the board decides, abutters and Conkey can enchantment the choice to the Zoning Board of Adjustment. Along with Planning Board approval, Conkey additionally will want a separate allow from the New Hampshire’s Division of Environmental Companies as a result of the property includes a pit that’s greater than 100,000 sq. toes. If the state doesn’t grant Conkey a allow, the Planning Board’s resolution could be voided.

The Planning Board is scheduled to fulfill at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 14, on the Public Works constructing on Lockehaven Highway.

Liz Sauchelli might be reached at or 603-727-3221.

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