Residents take complaints over gravel pit expansion to the Select Board
LEVERETT — Leverett residents who live on Long Plain and Jackson Hill roads appeared before the Select Board Tuesday to oppose a special permit for the expansion of a gravel pit on Long Plain Road under consideration by the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Residents presented the board with letters outlining their concerns, which include the number of large trucks traveling to and from the pit and the noise they generate, the amount of dust blown onto their properties, environmental degradation of the surrounding farmland, the impact on property values and worries about a large aquifer under the pit.
“We’ve come here to seek your help, as well as your input,” said Robert Schmid of Long Plain Road. “I realize this is a controversial issue, but I also realize that it’s possibly a reality.”
According to Select Board member Peter d’Errico, the issue originated from a lawsuit brought against the town by the gravel pit’s owner, Richard Roberts, two years ago. He said complaints about the pit being extended beyond what it was originally intended led to a stop work order until Roberts acquired the proper permit.
D’Errico said Roberts was eventually denied the permit and sued the town in response, claiming he had a right to expand the pit. The court subsequently returned the decision to the Zoning Board for further discussion, and the permit is under consideration.
A final decision on the matter is expected from the Zoning Board at its meeting July 29 at 7:15 p.m in Leverett Town Hall.
Some of the residents told the Select Board they felt the Zoning Board was showing a bias in favor of Roberts.
Schmid said that he feels he and his neighbors are being “shoved aside and not taken seriously. This is a serious issue,” he said. “This isn’t just somebody asking for a sign for their business. This is a major change in our neighborhood. It’s a major change in our town, and we feel that this issue needs to be taken seriously by whoever is involved in it.”
Much of the discussion centered around the large commercial trucks traveling to and from the gravel pit along Jackson Hill Road. Some residents complained about being run off the road by or being unable to pass the trucks due to the narrowness of the road. They called for the speed limit on Jackson Hill Road, which is 40 miles per hour, to be reduced.
Jennifer Storey of Jackson Hill Road described an incident in which she met one of Roberts’ trucks on the road, could not pass it and was forced to drive in reverse down the length of the street.
Roberts, who was also present at the meeting, denied the claims made against the conduct of his drivers.
“We do not drive fast, and whenever I meet a car on the road I always pull over and run my flashers. This isn’t the first year we’ve been there,” he said.
In response to the grievances, Richard Brazeau, the Select Board’s chairman, noted that the panel made the original decision to impose the stop work order and said that the board can’t control decisions made by the Zoning Board.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate for the Select Board to be inserting itself in the Zoning Board’s process,” Brazeau said. “We’re being asked to fight something that is not in our purview to fight.”
He advised the residents to send a letter to the Select Board about reducing the speed limit on Jackson Hill Road and redesigning the intersection of Cave Hill and Montague Roads to make it possible for trucks to use that route to travel to and from the pit.
“That intersection is quite difficult even for an ordinary car to turn north,” d’Errico said. “For a big truck, it’s nearly impossible.”
The intersection is one of three routes to the pit, the others being Jackson Hill Road and North Leverett Road, which is impassable by trucks due to a low railroad overpass.
But as far as the right to expand the pit, Brazeau said, “We cannot override the decisions made by the Zoning Board, and if people feel aggrieved there is a process through the courts, and unfortunately that’s probably what’s going to happen.”