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    Friday, June 21, 2024

    Quarry operation in Gales Ferry back on the table

    A crowd at the Ledyard Planning & Zoning Commission hearing in December 2023 gathers to oppose a quarry operation in Gales Ferry at the former Dow Chemical property. Photo by Lee Howard/The Day
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    Ledyard ― A controversial plan to create a quarry operation at Mount Decatur has been resubmitted by Gales Ferry Intermodal LLC, this time offering some financial incentives to the town while claiming the operation wouldn’t create “any objectionable impacts either from noise or dust.”

    The application for a special use permit at the former Dow Chemical plant off Route 12 also claims that local regulations that allow the Planning and Zoning Commission to consider the project’s effects on the character of the immediate neighborhood are superseded by a new state law. That law essentially nullifies such language unless “clear and explicit physical standards for site work and structures” are specified.

    Harry B. Heller, the lead attorney for Gales Ferry Intermodal’s parent company Cashman Dredging & Marine Contracting Co. of Quincy, Mass., downplayed the potential for increased truck traffic in the resubmitted application, saying aggregate from the site will be shipped “primarily via barge,” while also playing up the creation of “30 well-paying construction jobs” during the property’s development phase.

    Heller also is offering the town 25 cents per cubic yard of material extracted from the site as “payment in lieu of taxes,” though no estimate of how much money that would produce for the town was submitted.

    David Harned, a member of the community group Citizens Alliance for Land Use, which opposes the quarry proposal, characterized the payment proposal as inappropriate.

    “Money is completely irrelevant when it comes to compliance with regulations,” he said Thursday.

    Harned listed a variety of problems with the updated proposal, which he said has not significantly changed from the one that dozens of residents opposed during hearings that started late last year and extended into January.

    The issues of silica dust being released into the air, as well as concerns over quality of life, the slope of the regraded property, loss of property value and stormwater runoff were among those he is most concerned about, while others have issues with the significant effects on Mount Decatur where the remnants of a War of 1812 fort still stand, as well as noise and the impact on wildlife habitat.

    “There are many regulations that will clearly be violated,” Harned said. “All we need is one that they violate, and they shouldn’t get their permit.”

    Town Planner Julie Hodge said the Planning and Zoning Commission would formally accept the application Thursday night but won’t likely schedule a public hearing until June.

    She added one issue will be whether this is a quarrying operation, which is not allowed under town regulations, or excavation work, which is permitted. Also, she said, a new proposal for using water to control silica dust could trigger a reconsideration of whether a wetlands permit is required.

    As for the 2021 state statute that Heller now claims supersedes the town’s “neighborhood character” consideration, Hodge pointed out that the law was passed to ensure that municipalities weren’t discriminating against affordable housing projects. She was unsure how that would apply to an industrial site.

    “He’s stretching that one,” Hodge said.

    In addition to receiving the Gales Ferry Intermodal proposal Thursday, the Planning and Zoning Commission agenda included an application by Avery Brooks Homes LLC of Gales Ferry for an 18-lot subdivision on Stoddards Wharf Road. The resubdivision proposal, totaling 6.38 acres in a residential zone, calls for six affordable homes on site, with the rest to be sold at market value.

    Principals in the project were listed as Peter C. Gardner of Gales Ferry, Conrad C. Gardner Jr. of East Lyme and Anthony Bonafine of North Windham. The development would involve the creation of a new street called Avery Court. A May public hearing on the application is expected.

    Also on the agenda is a proposal from Don Co LLC of Gales Ferry to create a 10-unit mobile home park at 59 Kings Highway near Christy Hill Road. Three of these two-bedroom homes would be deemed affordable, while seven would be sold at market rate. Hodge said mobile home parks are not supported by zoning regulations, so the plans will have to be amended to create individual lots for the residences.

    l.howard@theday.com

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