Bristol pens proposed standards for gravel pits

BRISTOL — The Bristol Planning Commission last week wrapped up the first draft of a new zoning ordinance that planners hope will go before voters in March. The ordinance, if approved by voters, would regulate the mining of earth resources in the town, governing the hot-button issue extracting gravel, among other natural resources.
The proposed 12-page ordinance would significantly expand the current extraction policies in Bristol’s zoning bylaws. Right now, Section 526 — which deals with the extraction of soil, sand and gravel — measures less than one full page in the town’s zoning regulations.
New details in the draft include:
• More extensive application requirements for landowners hoping to establish an extraction operation, including traffic impact analyses, detailed maps of existing land features, geologic reports, reclamation plans and more.
• Specific setback and buffer requirements. No development at extraction operations, including internal roads, would be permitted within 50 feet of all property lines, and no excavation would be allowed to occur within 100 feet of property lines. Other buffers require minimum distances from residences and schools; streams and wetlands; and flood and fluvial erosion hazard areas.
• A maximum of 10 days of blasting each year.
• Sound pressure levels that may not exceed 70 decibels at a property line.
• Limited trucking access on public roads.
• Specific hours of operation.
Some elements of the draft ordinance are still up in the air. According to notes in the draft, the planning commission has not yet resolved whether or not to add a statement related to the visual and scenic impacts of extraction in the new ordinance.
Last week, the commission voted to move ahead on what Chair Tom Wells called an “accelerated schedule,” with the hope of sending the draft ordinance to the selectboard for consideration by the end of December.
If the commission and board stick to the schedule, Wells is confident the extraction ordinance will go before voters on Town Meeting Day.
Working at this accelerated clip, the commission will meet again on Wednesday, Dec. 2, to make one more pass through the draft. Then, on Dec. 23, the commission will host a final public hearing on the document before hopefully making the hand off to the selectboard.
“For a long time we’ve been telling the public that we would try to get (the Town Plan) and the extraction ordinance in front of them at the same time,” Wells said, referring to the draft Town Plan also slated for a Town Meeting Day vote. “We’re just doing our best. We have been doing our best all along.”

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