Residents in Bristol to weigh in on gravel plan

BRISTOL — The Bristol Planning Commission next week will likely wrap up a months-long march toward a new zoning regulation that would govern gravel pits in town. After that, the commission will shuttle the draft rules off to the selectboard, with an eye toward taking the new rules to the town for a vote on Town Meeting Day.
The draft ordinance, which voters can read by visiting the town’s Web site at, will be up for discussion at a Dec. 23 public hearing. The hearing will take place at 7 p.m. at Howden Hall. Residents are also encouraged to provide their input in writing by e-mail or to the board’s clerk, Lisa Dupoise ([email protected]), at the town offices.
Planning commission Chair Tom Wells said he thinks that after six months of hearing comments from gravel pit operators and staunch pit opponents alike, the commission has come up with a “very balanced document.”
“It cuts a very nice balance between the kinds of concerns a pit operator would have … and the concerns an adjacent property owner might have, and also takes into consideration the overall concerns of all the citizens (of Bristol),” Wells said.
Wells also said that, because the commission tried to strike a compromise between two opposing factions, the draft rules might not satisfy everyone in town.
“Neither side is going to be deliriously happy with it,” he said.
Under the town’s current gravel mining rules, which are outlined by Section 526 in Bristol’s zoning ordinances, every extraction operation had to obtain “conditional use review and approval” from the town’s Zoning Board of Adjustment. The ordinance sketches out some restrictions — requiring, for instance, that excavation sites be “graded smooth and left in a neat condition” — but most of the rules are broad.
The draft ordinance, on the other hand, would substantially expand the current rules. New details in the draft include:
• More extensive application requirements for applicants 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.
Wells said the board has built some flexibility into the plan, especially in areas where the commission has spelled out strict rules about setbacks or buffer zones. If a hard-and-fast rule doesn’t make sense for a particular pit, because of its location or geography, the ZBA will have some discretion for “case by case” situations.

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