WINTHROP — Local officials have asked the owners of a company looking to operate a sand and gravel mining operation in town for more information before deciding whether to allow the project to move forward.

The proposal by Lewiston-based L/A Properties LLC has generated controversy among residents, who say the blasting and crushing of rocks would create dust that could cause health problems if inhaled and might be harmful to local waterways.

At a packed meeting Wednesday, the Winthrop Planning Board voted 5-2 to table a decision on the company’s permit for a gravel pit on the eastern side of Turkey Lane. The company plans to crush and store rocks at the site after blasting and extracting them from the quarry, which would be across the street, on the western side of Turkey Lane.

“We’re not going to make everybody happy,” board member Gregory Stewart said, “but we’re trying to weigh the input from everybody to make sure we have the right information.”

It is unclear when the Planning Board will take up the matter again, Winthrop Code Enforcement Officer Mark Arsenault said Monday.

While the property west of Turkey Lane has not been quarried, the property on the eastern side has been used as a gravel pit. L/A Properties is attempting to reestablish— and expand — the gravel pit that was first licensed in 1987 by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.


The quarry aspect was also tabled by local officials last year, after the company filed a conditional use permit for sand and gravel extraction or other mining activity in September.

As the developers seek approval for their plans, a group of residents is raising money to oppose the project through legal means, according to its spokesperson, Gil Soucy, who lives on Turkey Lane.

More than 550 people — nearly a 10th of the town’s population — have joined a Facebook group called “Stop the Winthrop Quarry/Winthrop Area Residents Against the Quarry,” which is described as a space for sharing information, concerns and questions about the proposal.

The group has also created its own website. One of its top complaints is that harmful microscopic dust particles could travel in the air to the schools and downtown area, exposing people to the risk of developing silicosis, a long-term lung disease that can develop in people who have inhaled the silica dust derived from certain types of stone, rock sand and clay, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention,

With the open-pit mine proposed at 475 feet of elevation and the schools at 350 feet and the downtown area at 235 feet, Soucy said it would be easier for the particles to follow air currents.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Donald Mattice, a member of the Planning Board, asked about the company’s methods for monitoring potentially dangerous dust particles.


The company’s permit application indicates it would be crushing rocks at the gravel pit once or twice a year for a one- to two-week period. Operations at the pit would also include screening for approximately one month a year, according to officials.

Owner Rick Breton said there is “a very remote chance” the dust could cause issues at local schools. He also said employees would wear dust monitors.

“They’re right there,” he said. “They’re in it, as opposed to something a mile and a half to 2 miles away that’s being exposed as wind blows one to two weeks out of the year. I don’t see a risk there.”

Officials from the Maine DEP have visited the site three times and said the proposal meets current environmental standards, according to Breton. The company, however, would have to obtain an air emission license from the agency to use the crusher.

The previous gravel pit at the site is 22 acres and was permitted in the late 1980s for up to 33 acres. L/A Properties is proposing an 8-acre expansion, which would bring it to 30 acres, Randy Butler, senior project engineer with Dirigo Engineering of Fairfield, told the board.

The company is also attempting to reduce the required natural buffer to adjacent properties from 150 feet to 50. Butler said the properties are now about 200 feet away and may not move closer, but that 50 feet is more in line with current standards.


Other proposals in the application include expanding regular hours of operation from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. to 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. if there were an emergency. L/A Properties would also need to seal an open ditch in the southeast corner and ensure the pit is internally draining.

Jaime Wolf, a member of the Planning Board, asked Butler if the company had criteria for emergency situations that would cause it to expand hours. Butler said there are no such criteria.

One Turkey Lane resident expressed concerns about large trucks driving down the narrow road, which is part of the school bus route. The resident said the road has a sharp corner that can “barely fit two cars going across at the same time,” and with the addition of heavy vehicles, the edges could erode and the road could become even narrower.

While state law permit up to 30 truckloads per day at gravel pits, Butler said the company would not likely exceed 10 loads in a day.

Jop Blom, who co-owns Annabessacook Farm next to Hoyt Brook in Winthrop, said he is concerned about the environmental impact of the project. Hoyt Brook is one of the closest bodies of water to the gravel pit and quarry, and connects to 13,543-acre Annabessacook Lake.

Even if the project meets current DEP standards, Blom said the environmental impact should still be examined.


“Recently, we’ve heard about all the sludge that has been used legally — and approved by the DEP — on farms,” said Blom, who owns the farm and bed-and-breakfast with state Sen. Craig Hickman, D-Winthrop. “Now, it turns out that it’s full of PFAS and a lot of these farms can’t farm anymore.”

Blom said he understands Breton is a businessman, and suggested the rural land Breton has bought be used to meet the community’s need for affordable housing.

“So where do I get my gravel to build?” Breton asked Blom. “If I’m building developments for you, for Winthrop, where does that gravel come from?”

The Planning Board has asked L/A Properties to provide more information before the board again considers whether to grant the gravel pit permit.

The additional information includes defining emergency situations that could cause the company to expand its hours, providing more information on the potential traffic impact on Turkey Lane, explaining the operation’s likely impact on air quality and providing information on how the company would handle erosion and establish its groundwater level.

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