WINTHROP — Town officials have been working on drafting an ordinance to regulate mining after a proposal for a quarry on Turkey Lane faced backlash, ultimately leading to a moratorium that expires early next year. But residents have raised concerns about a lack of community engagement and transparency in the process.

Former Town Councilor Gil Soucy, who is heading the group “Winthrop Area Residents Against the Quarry,” said the Planning Board has not released information about what it has been working on in the three months since it decided to revise the policy.

“Winthrop Area Residents Against the Quarry would like to be involved in the development process of this ordinance, but we realize there is a previously established process that you need to follow,” Soucy wrote in a Nov. 15 letter to the Planning Board. “However, we need an advocate on the Planning Board to bring these issues to the forefront before the Ordinance is finalized and submitted to the Town Council. Asking the residents for input once the draft is finalized is not a recipe for success.”

Soucy further demanded the Planning Board pay close attention to lowering the blasting standard at a quarry and placing adequate mechanisms to monitor air for pollutants such as PM 2.5, which is known to cause adverse health complications including heart attacks and lung diseases.

“I know the Planning Board is working hard on this,” said Soucy. “It’s possible that they have already addressed these concerns, but I have no way of telling as no one has seen a draft yet.”

The Town Council extended a temporary ban on mining and gravel pit activities in September. Town officials have until March 9 to come up with a set of regulations that will alleviate environmental and health concerns that were raised when the quarry was first proposed. The moratorium can, however, be extended by another 180 days if approved by councilors.


The Kennebec Valley Council of Governments is assisting the Planning Board as the latter works to come up with an ordinance. KVCOG has provided a framework for a set of regulations derived from mining excavation ordinances in other towns. Representatives from the organization, known to assist municipalities in similar processes, have attended numerous Town Council and Planning Board meetings, offering insight.

Officials initially inquired about the possibility of banning all mining excavation activities. KVCOG Planning Director Joel Greenwood noted that a complete ban would be illegal under state law. Instead, a strict ordinance could help limit the scope of mining excavation.

Town Manager Anthony Wilson said the Planning Board is close to wrapping up the draft in the next meeting tonight at 7 p.m.

“I spoke with Joel Greenwood, and he anticipates the work on the draft will be done soon. Then the draft will be published for public consumption and the public will be given an opportunity to give input,” said Wilson.

Dawn Emerson, the town planner appointed in September, said that though a public comment period is not listed on the meeting agenda for Dec. 6 meeting, the Planning Board can still choose to include it, though they are not required to. Emerson added that the process to review the template provided by KVCOG has been tedious but it has progressed well. Once a draft is ready, the Planning Board will send out a public hearing notice.

“I do understand the frustration of the people, but we are just finishing up the first draft and after that we will definitely be taking public input,” Emerson said. “Getting input before we even have a draft would have been premature.”

Wilson noted that the Planning Board wants to “first complete the work and then get the input.” He added that based on the public interest in the ordinance, changes to the draft are expected.

With the draft approaching completion, the Planning Board will listen to public input, make amendments, if needed, and recommend an ordinance to the Town Council. The council will assess the ordinance further, inviting more public comments before voting on it.

“It feels like someone keeps moving the goal post. We haven’t been given a chance to be a part of the process, but we will wait for the draft and see if it includes what we wanted,” said Soucy. “We will get our foot through the door.”

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