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June 28, 2000     Volume 1 Number 11     Index


Residents have Second Thoughts
on Gravel Pit

Also in this issue:
Heated Discussions at Gravel Pit Site Walk
Cell Tower Approved in Limington

In the last issue:
Comment Period Kept Secret on Low-Income Housing Project
Planning Board Member resigns in protest

Jump to the July 19th edition

Residents have Second Thoughts on Proposed Gravel Pit

A gravel pit next to Boyd Pond is proposed by Dearborn Construction with an entrance on the Mill Turn Road

by Dick Jarrett

    What a difference a public hearing and few days make.  Residents who thought that their concerns were going to be met by private discussions with the developer were rudely awakened last week by the comments at Thursday's public hearing.  While the residents thought that the Mill Turn Road would be improved for their benefit, they soon realized that any road improvements were going to be made just so that the gravel could be removed more efficiently and with fewer restrictions.

    Few zoning issues have more of an impact on the life of a homeowner than a new gravel pit.  Gravel pits are the only industrial operations that are allowed in a residential area.  While the mining process may be just a business decision to the operator, the nearby residents perceive it as a direct attack on their homes, their families, and their way of life.  The dust, the noise, and the traffic generated by gravel mining and trucking operations can have an extremely negative impact on the lives of the residents who have invested their life savings in their homes in Limington.

    This issue of the Limington Free Press features some stories posted on the Limington Public Forum by "Really Fed Up" who has obviously spent a great deal of effort explaining the issues.  Please be sure also to read the follow-up story on the site walk which is after this letter.

Look out Pooh, Rabbit and Tigger, DBC ready to gut the 100 acre wood
by "Really Fed Up" from the Limington Public Forum

    Seems another local Limington land owner is ready to open the door for an out of town company to come in and impact this communityís citizens.  Apparently Bruce Haley is in the process of selling a 100 acre parcel of land on the Mill Turn Road to Dearborn Brothers Construction.  Mill Turn Road is a small rural dirt road that connects Route 117 in South Limington to the Sand Pond area serviced by Sand Pond and the Hard scrabble Roads.  DBC were hoping to attain one gravel pit permit for the entire 100 acre piece so they wouldnít have to come back before the Planning Board again if this permit is approved.

    Serious questions were to be asked at a public hearing held on June 22nd.  Ones that needed to be answered before such a large project such as this is even considered for approval by the Planing Board.  Like how the heavy multi axle truck traffic is going to affect this small dirt road?  What of the Limington citizens who live on the road, will constant contaminating dust flood their homes and yards?  Will the road itself take the 60,000 to 70,000 pound tri-axle truck weight or will it break up under the load?  One has to wonder how the culvert down by route 117 that runs from the Pond will hold up?  However before these question were address DBC told the board they intended to rebuild the road to town specs and pave it.  Dearborn had attempted to beat opponents of the pit to the punch by meeting with some of the locals on the Mill Turn Road and luring them into believing he would do this for them to make it less of an impact.

    However at the hearing Dearborn all but admitted outright that he really needed to rebuild the road to support his heavy trucks because the road would not hold up to the traffic at its present state.  So apparently the local impact wasnít his top priority for paving.  In an apparent attempt to pull the wool over the locals eyes Dearborn Brothers construction owner Ronald Dearbornís offer to pave the Mill Turn road, to make it less of an negative impact on its residents, was nothing more than a smoke and mirror show.

    The arrogance really gleaned through as an out of town contractor demanded to the Town of Limington Planing Board that if he rebuilt the Mill Turn road, "I want to use that road 365 days a year, and donít want anyone telling me I canít!"  Such a statement shows the apparent lack respect these out of town contractors have for our town.  Are we to believe that a back door deal between DBC and one of the locals, one Joe Romano, is sufficient for the Town of Limington to give up itís rights to our town road so a out of town contractor can profit from it.  The Town of Limington should be in control of this process and everything else pertaining to town business not out of town profiteers.

    The Limington Planning Board has already had a record of failure when it comes to permitting gravel pits on small dirt roads.  One actually in the same region just a mile away where the other end of Mill Turn turns into Sand Pond Road.  It is well documented how the contractorís heavy truck turned the small dirt road into dust and ruts.  It was so bad two years ago that the US postal Service could not even deliver the mail for three days to the inhabitance because the road became so impassable for the letter carrier to do his job.  And who do you suppose paid fore the road to be graded and repaired?  You guessed it, you the Limington taxpayer.  Matter of fact you have paid for this service over and over and over. And finally after years of complaints the Limington Taxpayer paid to have the rural dirt road paved.

    Real studies need to be made here.  Impact studies that are required by the town, ordered by the Planning Board and paid for by the contractor and not by the town like Mr. Dearborn requested at the meeting.  Studies that take local citizenís input into account and just doesnít leave complete control in the hands of a Planning Board stacked with former and present contractors and their partisan drum beaters.  These facts are also well documented.  One board member who is a contractor even went as far as requesting that the Town of Limington taxpayers pay to have the local Shoppers Guide sent to a Westbrook based contractor, White Brothers Construction that operators a pit in Limington, so they could be informed about any of the townís actions that might concern gravel pits.  The Town of Limington citizens need to protect themselves from the negative impact of these big pit operations because as stated before, the Planning Board has shown a history of failure to properly do so.

    Some day, hopefully soon, the Planning Board will get the message that they are here to serve the publicís best interest and not be an lobbyist for the applicant.  When one of the Mill Turn pit opponents asked what upside the operation would do for the town.  Board member and contractor herself, Diane Hubbard, apparently attempted to mislead the person by expressing that contractors like to have pits in town so they donít have to go outside the community and haul gravel back into town.  One would have to wonder what train of thought was being used by Hubbard and how this would pertain to a out of town contractor coming into Limington and exporting its natural resources to Greater Portland.  The Planning Boardís history of rudely cutting citizens off during public hearings when they donít agree with the boardís views, or contradicts the boardís flagrant bias towards certain types of business, is well documented.  It was no different the at the June 22nd meeting when chairperson Wendy Walker thwarted one citizenís views on the lack of an positive upside due to the lax zoning codes in Limington in response to Hubbardís remarks.

    There is little doubt these big out of town contractors with their heavy equipment, crushers, screening plants and the parade of heavy truck traffic do nothing positive for the town.  They bring in no tax money, while they pay thousands in registration fees elsewhere, employ little or no local people, do no public service or offer anything worthy of their presence.  However they do negatively impact the local citizenís quality of life with their dust, noise and safety concerns.  They end up costing town of Limington taxpayer tax dollars to repair roads they ruin.  They devalue abutting property values.  They clog the local roads with their slow moving traffic with their black exhaust billowing into the air.  They ruin wildlife habitat and the natural landscape.  You see, these are not small local contractors that live and work in Limington., these are the city boys, and the disturbing part of this distasteful story is that it is all for profit.  Yes, and the profit is all going into someoneís pocket from the big city and one local land owner ,while the small town of Limington and itís taxpayers ends up with all the down side.  If Limington continues to embrace this type of high impact business by having lax zoning ordinances pertaining to gravel pits the contractors will keep coming and coming because like was said by one resident at the meeting, Limington is easy pray for the out of town contractor.

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Heated Discussions at Gravel Pit Site Walk

by Dick Jarrett

    The site walk of the Limington Planning Board at the proposed gravel pit on the Mill Turn Road became quite heated yesterday evening as residents questioned the impartiality of the board.  When resident Joe Romano rhetorically asked if the Board was supposed to be unbiased or biased towards the applicant, members of the Board openly laughed at him and belittled his concerns.  The exchanges were reminiscent of the days before the Planning Board meetings were video taped for cable and where a free-for-all barrage of insults, criticisms, and personal attacks used to take place.  The residents' concerns about impartiality may have been reinforced when the Board seemed to take at face value the statement from the developer that this gravel pit would be a "win-win situation" for the people on the road.

    Mr. Romano also said that he thought it was somewhat arrogant of Dearborn Construction to stipulate from the Planning Board that no restrictions be placed on the use of Mill Turn Road.  Mr. Dearborn had said at the last board meeting that he wanted to fix up the road so that his trucks could use it, but in exchange he demanded that he be able to use the road "365 days a year".  Mr. Dearborn said he regretted that his statement had appeared arrogant but one would wonder how sincere he really was: only minutes later on a similar issue he stated that if his company was required to pay for any engineering studies on the town road needed as a result of the pit, that he demanded the right to pick the engineer.  The issue is the same: who owns the town road?  Mr. Dearborn or the townspeople?  Will the taxpayer's rights really be protected if only an engineer who is favorable to the applicant is used?

    As in the previous story, the Limington Public Forum comments of "Really Fed Up" examine just what role of the Limington Planning Board should be.  These comments complement this story and are presented here without modification:

The Planning Board or Application Board, take your pick?
by "Really Fed Up" from the Limington Public Forum

    One might have to wonder which name would more accurately reflect the accomplishments of the largest elected group of officials in our fair town of Limington.  When you look at most news stories and other media outlets across the southern part of the state, planning boards everywhere are tackling concerns of their constituency who elected them, on problems of urban sprawl, commercial overgrowth, quality of residential life and many other community issues along with their duty to oversee land use applications.

    Recently the City of Saco planing took on the issue of water quality in cluster housing and quickly addressed the problem by changing zoning.  Making cluster housing subdivisions only acceptable where public water and sewer are available.  The Town of Windham planning recently addressed the private way issue and the potential safety hazards for residents.  They are also in the process of looking into the commercial districtís growth into a concrete jungle and the citizenís concerns of how unpleasant it has become.

    So let us now rant and rave in complete frustration as we ponder why the Limington Planning Board has done little or nothing over the past few years other than approving pretty much every single application brought before it.  But before we get to far we will admit they did do a little bit of rezoning work about two years ago, but only after a citizen led petition drive won voter approval and pretty much mandated the board to come back to earth and look at the issue.  Oh, there was one other small problem where a sitting board member seemingly used her position on the board in attempts to change the sign ordinance so her and she husband could move their businesses sign without going to the appointed appeals board process which eventually bailed them out.

    Iím sure that there are many in town would welcome a board of elected officials who would live up to the label that carries their name.  One can only hope that someday that this group will come to the realization their job is to take in account every single issue in the townís zoning and act positively toward a solution that will benefit everyone citizen, business and applicant alike.  For too long the boardís arrogance and complete lack of compassion toward the citizens of Limington has polarized many in this community against the board.  While allegedly listening the concerns of their constituency at public hearings over the past several years the board has continually used one excuse consecutively why their hands are tied and they cannot be more protective of citizenís concerns.  That is, the board can only follow the zoning ordinance.

    Again one can only wonder when certain public concerns are brought to the board and it seems to become a continuous pattern of complaints why the board doesnít do the job they were elected to and address the problem by having workshops and proposing citizen friendly changes to the zoning codes.  There are real issues in the town right now over the concerns of the complete lack of a zoning ordinance pertaining to telecommunication towers.  One (cell tower) gained approval at the meeting, even though there were concerns brought up by citizens and the board did apply several conditions, no talk of holding future workshops to address this highly charged issue were discussed.  There are times over the past few years when board meetings have been called off early or been cancelled all together because of a "lack of agenda".  The lack of agenda meant there was no applications before the board to review.  Apparently the board feels, and has seemingly to proved to this observer by their actions, that approving applications is itís only reason for being in existence.  Actually the CEO alone could perform this simple service of interpreting the zoning ordinance which is all the Planning Board has been doing.

    Real questions need to be asked and legitimate answers need to be given.  Why doesnít our board address the lack of commercial business in the district that has been designated for it?  Other communities work on grants and with state agencies to promote growth within their business district to broaden the local services and tax base.  Seems like the only promotion of commercial growth in Limington is the pro stance several board members have in aiding construction companies, who bring nothing to town in the form of a financial upside, in gaining approval for gravel pits in residential areas around the town.  Why does Limington lag behind so far in business and potential job opportunities for our young citizens?

    It has become quite clear that the board left in its present state become a liability to the Town of Limington and its citizenís concerns.  We as voters must weigh how long we can as a group promote this board to office when our return as taxpayers and citizens have seen little to no satisfaction in business growth, or residential protection.  It is time to demand of these officers of the town to wake up and respect the entire voter base as a group or step down and let more competent professionals address the towns needs.

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Cell Tower Approved in Limington

This is the first cell tower to come before the Limington Planning Board

by Dick Jarrett

Proposed 190 foot tall Cell Tower
  Proposed 190' Cell Tower
    Construction has begun on the first cell tower in Limington shortly after approval was granted last Thursday night by the Limington Planning Board.  The 190 foot tower will be located in the Burning Rose residential subdivision on the rear-most lot.  This subdivision is located on Route 25 and currently has ten rental dwelling units (five duplex apartments).  Normally towers shorter than 200 feet such as this one do not need to be lighted.  However, the FAA sometimes requires shorter towers to be lighted if they are a hazard to aircraft.  The applicant, Mike York, agreed to the condition that the height of the tower will be kept low enough so that lights will not be needed.  The negative visual impact of a tower is reduced if the tower is not lit.  Furthermore, lighted towers have caused problems for migrating birds that sometimes get confused by the lights.  In one exceptional case in Kansas, 10,000 Lapland longspurs were killed in a single foggy night when they became disoriented by tower lights.  The website
www.TowerKill.com has more information on this growing problem.

    Currently the Limington Zoning Ordinance treats communication towers like any other commercial enterprise and only requires a standard conditional use permit.  Communication towers of any height may be permitted in any zone except for the resource conservation districts where commercial uses are not allowed.  The only special consideration for such tall structures is that the lot line setback must equal or exceed the height of the tower.  Visual, public safety, and wildlife issues must be considered for all conditional use permits issued by the Planning Board but no special rules exist for communication towers.

    Other towns throughout Maine and the country have recently begun enacting cell tower ordinances or moratoriums to gain some control over this issue since so many new towers are being built.  The primary issues are public safety, visual impacts, wildlife impacts, co-location, and obsolescence.

    Public safety issues relate both to the tower structure itself and radio frequency emissions.  Most ordinances require a property line setback of between 100% to 125% of the tower height.  Ordinances usually also require some certification as to the mechanical strength of the tower and require periodic structural inspections.  The Federal Government has prohibited local jurisdictions from setting radio frequency emission standards higher than the federal guidelines.  These standards are based on the heating effects of the radio waves on biological tissue and many people feel that the standards do not protect the health of the public.  In fact, many countries have established far more restrictive standards than the United States.  For example, in places in Europe, the maximum allowable exposure level is 100 times lower than here.  Additional information on this subject can be found at www.EMRnetwork.org.  Local jurisdictions do have the authority and responsibility to require monitoring of these emissions and some ordinances require periodic testing paid for at the owner's expense.  The Limington Planning Board declined to require any periodic testing or inspections.

    Visual impacts of communication towers are also often a major concern.  Some shorter towers are made to look like trees or clock towers to protect the character of a neighborhood.  Height and tower lights are the two most important factors that affect visual impact.  Most ordinances also prohibit advertising and require the towers be painted to blend into the background (unless FAA requirements dictate otherwise.)  Impacts are also reduced when different companies are required to share the same tower (co-location).  Everyone has seen examples of "tower farms" where multiple towers from different companies are located adjacent or close to each other.  This remains a major issue in West Baldwin where WMTW Channel 8 wants to build "for business reasons" a second TV transmission tower only two miles from the existing WCSH Channel 6 tower.

    Finally the rapidly evolving technology of telecommunications has resulted and will result in many unused and obsolete towers.  Most ordinances provide that towers which remain unused for more than a year must be taken down.  For example there is a tower near Cornish which has not been used for years but remains as a permanent part of the landscape even though it may serve no useful public purpose.  The first cell towers to be erected in an area are usually taller towers to gain a wide coverage area.  As cell phone usage increases in the region, more numerous but shorter towers are then built so that the individual cell coverage size can be kept smaller.

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