Leverett ZBA OKs gravel pit expansion
The Leverett Zoning Board of Appeals has granted R.H. Roberts Excavating a special permit to expand his Long Plain Road gravel pit.
A sign protests the expansion of the R.H. Roberts gravel pit across from the business on Long Plain Road in Leverett.
LEVERETT — The Zoning Board of Appeals has issued a special permit that will allow Leverett resident Richard Roberts to expand his Long Plain Road gravel pit by 5 acres.
The permit was issued this week with a number of conditions that Roberts must meet, including limits on the pit’s hours of operation, the area that can be excavated at any given time, the number of trucks that can leave the pit each day and the amount of gravel that can be removed from the pit each year.
The conditions also call for the construction of a barrier consisting of trees and a stone wall or fence to screen the pit from view along Route 63. The final landscape design for the screen will be reviewed at a public meeting before excavation is allowed to begin.
Members of the zoning board also amended the conditions to include a 10-year time limit on the permit, after which Roberts would have to apply for a new one. The permit is also contingent on Roberts being issued a second special permit under the town’s aquifer protection zoning bylaw.
The issuance of the permit has proved to be a controversial topic in Leverett, with many abutting property owners in arms over the proposed expansion.
The neighbors outlined their complaints in a number of letters presented to the Selectboard July 9, where they expressed concerns over the noise generated by trucks coming to and from the pit, the possibility of environmental degradation as a result of the expansion, the amount of dust being blown onto their properties, and the conduct of Roberts’ truck drivers on Jackson Hill Road.
Additionally, some of the residents said they believed the zoning board was exhibiting a bias in favor of Roberts.
Two years ago, after residents complained about the pit being extended beyond its permitted limits, the Selectboard issued a stop-work order until Roberts acquired the proper permit. In response, Roberts sued the town, claiming he had the right to expand the pit. The court eventually sent the case back to the town for continued discussion.
The special permit was issued in an attempt to settle the pending lawsuit. If Roberts does not accept the permit and its conditions, he is expected to move ahead with the court case.
Roberts attended the Tuesday night meeting with his lawyer, who said he would have to discuss the matter with his client before responding.
During their discussion before the vote, many of the board’s members expressed their frustration with the length of the process leading up to the decision and the rift that it has caused between Roberts and his neighbors.
“It’s been such a long haul,” said board member Nancy Paulin. “I appreciate everyone’s behavior during all this, and it’s been difficult for us to participate in all this, but I do think that with the conditions that we have come up with since the original vote, I would vote in favor.”
Board member Cynthia Baldwin said she also found the process to be very difficult, and felt as though the zoning board had been vilified by those on both sides of the issue.
“I’m not sure if I will stay on the board after all this,” she said. “The idea was to find a place in the middle. They say a good compromise is one where everyone is unhappy.”