Some homeowners on Taunton Bay in Franklin say that a proposed gravel quarry on South Bay Road could bring intense noise and property damage if approved.
A land surveyor representing the company that is seeking a permit for the site says that noise from the quarry would be intermittent and that the operation would not harm nearby property owners.
TC Gravel LLC is seeking from the town of Franklin a special exemption permit, which is required for any commercial use that takes up more than 2,500 square feet, so it can blast gravel at a site on South Bay Road.
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The site would be on a 75-acre parcel but the gravel quarry itself would be less than 1 acre. A quarry that is an acre or larger requires state permits, but a quarry less than an acre would only need local planning board approval.
Ken Fogelman, head of the Taunton Bay Homeowners’ Association, said the noise from blasting and subsequent crushing of rock into gravel will be heard not just in his neighborhood off South Bay Road, but also on the more heavily populated north side of the bay.
“It’s a problem that’s going to affect the entire area,” Fogelman said. “We’re very concerned about this. It’s just not a logical place for a quarry.”
He said a group of local residents is trying to collect 90 signatures on a petition that would require the town to hold a special town meeting about the proposal.
If they gather enough signatures, voters then would decide at the town meeting whether to adopt a 180-day moratorium of quarries, which would give the town time to draft and adopt restrictions on where quarries can operate. Currently, the only zoning restrictions in Franklin are in the shoreland zone.
Millard Billings, the town’s code enforcement officer said the quarry proposal first came up in early 2021. This isn’t the first time the site has been considered for a quarry though. He said that about 100 years ago, some test blasts were done at the site but it was never developed into a quarry.
Over the years, some of the loose rock from those blasts has been gathered up and trucked offsite, and about 10 years ago trees were cut for timber.
“There hasn’t been any blasting or drilling [to date],” he said.
The planning board held a couple of public hearings on the proposal. Earlier this summer, the board asked the company to look into how blasting at the site might compare to some minor earthquakes that have been detected in the area in the past year or so, Billings said.
Steve Salsbury of Herrick & Salsbury, a land surveying firm in Ellsworth, said that consultants have drafted a report on the impact of earthquakes in the area, but that there really isn’t much about them that can shed light on the proposed quarry.
“My geologists are telling me it’s not even close to comparable,” Salisbury said.
Salisbury said that operations at the site will be infrequent. He said there would be one or two blasts a year, and that crushing of the blasted rock into gravel would take place during working hours for about 4 to 5 days after each blast. Aside from that, it would just be truck traffic going to and from the site.
“It’s not going to be a full-time operation,” he said. “The neighbors will hear the blasts, but that’s going to be the end of it.”
Salisbury said the blasting is not expected to damage any adjacent properties.
The land surveyor said he expects to talk to officials at the nearby USDA and University of Maine aquaculture research sites about their experiences with earthquakes in the area, and then to turn in the report to the town. He said he expects the planning board to schedule another public hearing after that to take comments on the report.
“I hope to get it out this week or next,” he said.