The gated entrance and sign for Shaw’s Pit in Dresden is pictured Tuesday. The gravel pit, located off of Cedar Grove Road, is one of four in town. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

DRESDEN — In an unanimous vote last week, the Selectboard excluded existing gravel pits from the town’s 180-day moratorium ordinance on mineral extraction facilities.

The board’s vote came as MTN Sand & Gravel, the quarry pit that sparked the moratorium, filed a complaint with the Lincoln County Superior Court on June 24 to review the Dresden Board of Appeals decision that revoked the company’s conditional use permit.

The moratorium, which passed in June by one vote, allows the town to rewrite its mineral extraction ordinance. It also put a pause on any new conditional use permits for 180 days, confusing owners of the four existing gravel pits in town, who were afraid they would need to shut down operations for the time period, and that they could not expand their pit by more than an acre, as is stated on the moratorium.

Don Gleason, chair of the Dresden Selectboard, said the board made a decision based on advice from the town’s attorney and to clear up any confusion for the owners of the four existing mineral pits.

“It states that they couldn’t expand their pits, so there was a distorted interpretation of what that meant,” Gleason said. “In my mind, expanding was to open up new, or a new area that exceeds your permit. So, if you had 2 acres open but a permit for 5 acres, you could open to the additional 3 without issue, but some people thought they were stuck at what they had (currently) and that it would be a violation (to expand) but that was not the intent and the wording (in the petition) was not clear.”

Dresden is already home to four gravel pits and several people in town were worried about the moratorium’s effect on the existing pits, including Heather Beasley, whose family has owned Beasley Pit on Ballard Road for four generations. She spoke at several meetings regarding the moratorium and the effect it would have on her if she could not operate her business. Last week’s vote was a relief for her.

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“It’s very great news,” she said.

To work on the language of the new ordinance, the Planning Board and the group that petitioned for the moratorium formed an ad hoc group, with the Selectboard encouraging the inclusion of local pit owners. Peter Walsh, Dan Burke and Tim Cunningham, along with alternates Carl Johanson and Julia Fleming, were selected for the group. No meeting has been set yet.

MTN Sand & Gravel would mark the first quarry pit in Dresden. Gravel pits, of the kind that already exist in town, contain loose material, like sand or pebbles, while solid rock material is extracted from a quarry pit.

The Dresden Planning Board approved MTN’s conditional use application in January.

While that was brought to the board, however, a citizen’s petition for a moratorium on mineral extraction facilities circulated town. The Planning Board’s decision was appealed by local couple Barbara and Mike Fraumeni and heard on May 16, where the Dresden Board of Appeals sided with the couple and revoked MTN’s conditional use permit.

Most recently, Nate Tribbet, owner of MTN Sand & Gravel, appealed the decision made by the Dresden Board of Appeals through the Lincoln County Superior Court on June 24. He based his argument on three counts: that the Dresden Board of Appeals erred in its decision and acted with a bias while ignoring substantial evidence; that the neighborhood compatibility, or the rural living district under the town’s Land Use Ordinance, is unconstitutional by both the Maine Constitution and the U.S. Constitution; and to affirm the original decision made by the Dresden Planning Board in January, therefore invalidating the moratorium.

Tribbet’s filing does not have a court date yet, but the town has until September to submit materials for a hearing of the facts.

Moving forward, Gleason is glad the town has a chance to update town ordinances, which date to 2015 at the earliest, but thinks the committee needs to start moving as they are already 30 days into the moratorium ordinance.

“With this whole issue, the town has to go back and update the comprehensive plan and take another look at the ordinances and we will be in between shape a few months away from now,” he said.

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