Hearing on gravel removal is continued
By Tracy F. Seelye, Express editor
HANSON — The Board of Selectmen, following a site visit by members Don Howard and Bill Scott, Conservation Agent Laurie Muncy and a member of the Conservation Commission, will reopen a hearing at 8 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 30 on the application of Great Cedar Cattle Feeders Inc. of Halifax for a soil removal permit.
Howard has professional experience with bogs and gravel management, and Scott is a bog owner.
Great Cedar Farm Manager Demetrius Haseotes explained at the hearing Sept. 16 that the work involves removal of 3,400 cubic yards of soil from cranberry bogs at Pierce Avenue and Robinson Street in Hanson for use at the company’s agricultural property in Halifax. The company has already removed 600 cubic yards of gravel from the site.
He aplogized for beginning the work without a permit because he did not know it was necessary. The company’s bog manager Jesus Rivera was unable to attend the hearing.
“We had no idea we were to come before you,” Haseotes said. “What we were doing, we thought, was a routine operation and maintenance of our cranberry bog. We meant no disrespect to the board or any of the neighbors.”
Abutters expressed concern about the effect of the soil removal on drainage in the area, dust and traffic as well as the legality of the gravel removal operation if the project fits that definition. Selectmen all shared concerns voiced by abutters, but expressed the need for more information before rendering a decision.
“This is serious amounts of gravel being moved,” Selectmen Chairman David Soper said. “I ask this board to consider what we have going on here.”
“Obviously it is a gravel removal operation,” Scott said. “Whether it’s consistent with the farm plan … and may or may not be an exemption to the farm, that may be something to be decided outside this forum.”
Haseotes said the objective for the work is to create a “landing area” for trucks during picking season for safer and easier access to the property away from wetlands and wildlife. He noted that his father had a dangerous car accident on site last winter when his vehicle skidded on ice and ended up rolling over the vehicle in a bog pit.
“That day, when things got settled, we started to look at the bog and how to make things much safer,” Haseotes said. “It could have been a lot worse.”
He pledged to do the work during “normal business hours” and assured selectmen it was not a commercial operation.
Soper said that, from the fenceline, it appears excavation is close to the fence on the Robinson Street side and the operation should be required to truck out soil via Route 27 to control traffic and dust.
“It’s a big dust storm down there,” said Pierce Avenue resident Alan Spera, whose property abuts the bog area on two sides. “The actual excavation area is approximately 120 feet from my property line.”
He said work began in the busy area in August — there are town ballfields, an American Legion Post and Boss Academy of Performing Arts also located on Robinson Street, which forms an “L” intersection with Pierce Avenue.
“The town specifically does not allow gravel removal operations in any zone,” Spera added. “The only exception is if there is an accessory use … [or] related to that use.”
Haseotes argued his work fits that definition, but Spera — while he appreciated the apology — countered that removing the soil from the site is not an accesory or related use.
“I think we need a lot more information before we can support what you want to do — if we, in fact, are going to do that — and you are going to have to supply that information to us,” Spera said.
Robert White, a Robinson Street resident, spoke about the effect of dust and truck traffic.
“It’s lit up when trucks come out of the bogs,” he said of his house. “We have to keep our windows shut because of the dust coming off the roads. … It looks like the Big Dig.”
He said there are people going in out of the bogs at all hours of the night.
Where the dust is concerned, Haseotes said this has been one of the driest seasons he has seen in 25 years of farming.
Indian Trail resident Kim Wilson was chiefly concerned with the effect of the bog work on drainage.
“I’m looking at it not to stop someone from using the property they own but what effect that might have on myself, financially,” she said. “Gravel is drainage.”
Haseotes said he does not think work is close enough to the buffer area to affect drainage, but Conservation Commission Chairman John Kemmett said the company’s farm plan should contain answers to a lot of the questions being asked.
“I think it’s important that the board see that plan so they understand if you’re in compliance,” Kemmett said.
Selectman Bruce Young asked how the farm plan applied to the work being done. Hiseotes replied it would improve access for updating the bogs for increased production as well as improve access roads at other crop-producing properties.
Selectmen requested a copy of the farm plan as part of the continued hearing.
Scott said good relations with neighbors are important for farmers and said Route 27 as an access for trucks and watering down dust would help with that effort.
“If you kind of overdo you exemption rights, that sometimes creates a problem for neighbors,” Scott said. “Try hard not to do that.”
Howard, who also has bog experience, said the periodic sanding of bogs does not require removal of gravel to his knowledge. He also expressed concern about the dust problem.