The Dresden Planning Board unanimously approved Dick Condon’s mining application with conditions during a meeting at Pownalborough Hall Tuesday, Dec. 15, despite opposition from residents.
The decision followed a spirited public hearing and months of back and forth between Condon and the town regarding Condon’s gravel pit on Ludwig Road.
In August, Dresden Code Enforcement Officer James Valley issued a stop-work order to Condon after it was revealed Condon did not have a mining permit from the town.
During a planning board meeting Sept. 15, Dresden Planning Board Chairman Jeffrey Pierce expressed concern that Condon was attempting to circumvent town regulations requiring a 150-foot buffer between gravel pits and boundary lines. Andy Kerchkin, the pit’s previous owner, owns a 5-foot wide strip of land surrounding Condon’s property.
Kerchkin had previously waived the requirement and agreed to reduce the setback to 25 feet.
Dresden town attorney Jessica Avery said the setback should apply to all properties within 150 feet of the Condon property.
Residents of Ludwig Road have expressed concerns about the safety of trucks driving on the narrow road and damage that could be done to the road as a result.
Before the public hearing, the board reviewed a land survey of the property of Donald and Debra Swift, which abuts Condon’s property. David Starr Jr., of Gartley & Dorsky Engineering & Surveying, said it was his opinion that Kerchkin failed to have a 5-foot boundary based on surveys and deeds dating back to the 1920s.
“It appeared there was intent to maintain a five-foot strip around (Condon’s) property,” Starr said. “Based on my interpretation, this was not achieved.”
Pierce said any disputes on property lines are a civil matter and the Swifts and Condon would need to work out any questions on the boundary before Condon were to resume work if the application were approved.
The board also discussed Condon’s plan for maintenance and improvements to Ludwig Road if the application were approved. Dresden Third Selectman Allan Moeller Sr. said the road would need to be widened with turnouts to improve the safety of the road.
“The selectmen would work with (Condon) if this is approved,” Moeller said. “He will do nothing without the selectmen’s approval. He is going to work with the town of Dresden, and no taxpayers will be burdened by this project.”
Moeller said there currently is a speed limit sign on Ludwig Road. Both Moeller and Condon proposed a 25 mph sign be posted on the road.
Some residents expressed concern about a private citizen being responsible for a town road. Pierce said the town has hired excavating contractors to do work on the town’s dirt roads, and the planning board would leave the work on the road to the discretion of the select board.
During the public hearing, Ludwig Road and Dresden residents voiced opposition to the pit, saying it would create a safety hazard on the road and have a negative impact on the quality of life.
George Chapman and Emily Estes own Wild Grace Wellness Center, a wellness and physical therapy center, on Ludwig Road. Both Chapman and Estes expressed the concern Condon’s gravel pit would negatively impact their customers.
“The patients coming to the wellness center are in pain,” Chapman said. “We are extremely concerned they’re going to be faced with loaded trucks driving on the road. We don’t need these people getting scared and running off the road.”
“I object wholeheartedly with my soul about this,” Estes said. “My business will suffer; my property value is suffering just by talking about it. My ability to sell may already be compromised.”
John Matzke said that by allowing the application to go through, the planning board would be throwing the people living on Ludwig Road “under the bus.”
“Do you want the people who live and work in this town to make sacrifices for someone from out of town who only wants to make money?” Matzke said.
Matzke’s partner, Bill Waters, owns property abutting Condon’s. Matzke said Waters was unable to attend the public hearing, so Matzke was speaking on his behalf.
“It is a difficult decision, but you have a room full of people against it,” Matzke said.
David Lynch, of Dresden, was the only person who spoke in favor of the pit during the public hearing. Lynch favored Condon’s proposed improvements to the road if the application were approved.
“I live on the road, I pay my taxes and right now the road gets no help,” Lynch said.
Following the public hearing, Condon’s attorney Mary Denison, of Lake & Denison, answered some of the questions raised by residents. Denison said Condon was not requesting to have crusher on site or to store fuel on site.
Denison said a survey of Condon’s land is currently in process, and Condon’s surveyor and Starr could work together to determine if the property boundary needed to be adjusted.
After a brief discussion, the planning board unanimously approved Condon’s mining application with conditions to be discussed and modified as needed. One of the conditions of the approval would be a bond in the event Condon’s trucks cause damage to Ludwig Road.
“This is difficult for the board, because we understand what everyone is saying, but we cannot pick and choose what projects we approve,” Pierce said. “We have to follow the ordinance. This is not something the board does lightly or gingerly.”
Pierce told Condon not to begin work until the property boundaries were determined and proper buffer and screening was provided in accordance with the gravel pit ordinance.