South Hadley gravel pit owner proposes residential development, appeals cease-and-desist order 

  • The South Hadley Fire District 2 drinking water supply area on Sullivan Lane, Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 4/1/2019 5:30:50 PM

SOUTH HADLEY — The company behind a sand and gravel pit operation that stirred an ongoing debate over maintaining the safety of a town water supply filed an application for a residential housing development off Route 47 on Thursday.

Chicopee Concrete Service, which owns the sand and gravel pit, filed for a preliminary subdivision known as “North Pole Estates,” which would include 61 lots, with two on the Hadley Street section of Route 47 and the additional 59 on a proposed new road, according to Town Planner Richard Harris.

Meanwhile, the company filed an appeal on Friday for a cease and desist order issued on March 13 by Building Commissioner David Gardner after the town discovered that the company lacks a permit for major earth removal operations. A public hearing on the appeal will be held on April 25 at 7 p.m. in the Town Hall Select Board Meeting Room.

A housing development over the aquifer is “just as, if not more concerning” than the proposed gravel pit expansion, said Conservation Commission Chairman Bill DeLuca, who was among the residents who opposed the gravel pit expansion.

According to DeLuca, placing septic systems above the aquifer raises concerns that bacteria and other microorganisms can seep through sand and contaminate the water supply.

In a phone interview with the Gazette on Monday, Jason Ouellette, manager of Chicopee Concrete Service, said that the company has repeatedly agreed to meet additional safeguards proposed by the town and fire district in order to protect the water supply.

“The company only wants what’s best for the town and the company combined,” Ouellette said. “We want to find the happy medium. We want what’s best for the town, best for the well, best for the water district, and at the same time best for the company. Ultimately, that’s the goal.”

Harris said that the Planning Board has only completed a “cursory review” of the recently filed preliminary application, but said that so far the plans comply with zoning requirements for the water supply protection overlay district.

In a March 13 letter to Ouellette, Gardner declined an invitation to inspect the sand and gravel pit “since no evidence of a valid permit for major earth removal operations at the site can be found.”

“Furthermore, until a valid earth removal permit issued by the South Hadley Building Department is found or otherwise obtained, I must order Chicopee Concrete Service to cease all earth removal operations effective immediately,” he added.

The cease and desist order was issued less than two months after Chicopee Concrete Service withdrew a special permit request to expand its sand and gravel pit located off Route 47. The application drew outcry from residents concerned that the project would contaminate the nearby Fire District 2 water supply.

In response to resident concerns with the project, the South Hadley Planning Board is considering proposed zoning by-law and zoning map amendments relating to the water supply protection district and special permit conditions. The proposed amendments will be discussed during a public hearing held on April 22 at 6:45 p.m. in the Town Hall Select Board Meeting Room.

In the company’s appeal, Ouellette requested that the Zoning Board of Appeals schedule a hearing “In light of the fact that earth removal operations have been ongoing at the property for at least the past 75 years and given the significant impact the order has on our business.”

Ouellette also wrote that the location “has been used for gravel extraction since at least 1944; well prior to the town’s adoption of zoning by-laws on March 16, 1946,” and added that the town “has no right to deprive our company of its rights in and to the subject property.”

DeLuca said that the Conservation Commission hopes to be part of the conversation with other town departments, as they review the proposed development and gravel operations, adding, “these permits are really dependent on multiple boards in the town.”

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at jvoghel@gazettenet.com.


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