Bristol planners analyze results of poll on sand and gravel extraction

BRISTOL — At Tuesday’s Bristol Planning Commission meeting, planners responsible for analyzing data from a March 1 public poll on gravel excavation in town submitted reasons for why residents were for or against gravel extraction in Bristol.
The planners examined public comments from the poll, which was used to gauge community sentiments surrounding gravel extraction in the downtown and conservation districts.
Commission member John Elder analyzed comments from those in favor of extraction in the conservation zone. According to his analysis, “the most common argument presented … was that private, tax-paying landowners should have the right to do what they want with their own land.”
The next argument stated that Bristol needs this gravel for its roads and construction.
Finally, respondents felt that the town should encourage any business that can give the local economy a boost.
Since excavation in the downtown district was decidedly voted down, it seems that no comments in favor of excavation in the downtown area were analyzed.
Commission member Susan Kavanagh analyzed comments against extraction in the downtown district. Her primary findings were:
•  The leading concern for community members was that noise related to extraction practices would greatly impact the town.
•  The second most popular concern was over the impact of heavy truck traffic.
•  The third was that excavation would create an abundance of dust and consequently inhibit air quality.
•  Residents wrote that they were concerned about the close proximity of extraction to residential areas and the village’s businesses. Many people feel that extraction will negatively impact the town’s economic development, tourism, property values, and commercial and residential growth.
Planner Willow Wheelock’s analysis of comments against extraction in the conservation zone concluded that there were four major responses among citizens. They were:
•      “Conservation does not equal extraction. No heavy industry should be allowed in the conservation district.”
•  The conservation and planning commissions “need long-range outlook; extraction is short-range return.”
•  The conservation zone should protect ecological resources.
•  The conservation zone should utilize renewable resources and extraction is not renewable.
Selectman John “Peeker” Heffernan showed up to the planning commission meeting and added his thoughts on this issue.
“I understand the concerns of people worried about dust and worried about trucks … But, we (the town of Bristol and the town of New Haven) crush 40,000 yards (of gravel biannually)… at the bottom of Stoney Hill while (Mount Abraham Union High School) is in session and nobody ever realizes it.”
Heffernan added, “I think that it (excavation) can be done in a manner that’s acceptable to everybody. I’m in the business — I see it everyday.
“I just would like to caution the board that this is a non-renewable resource … and a valuable resource. I understand that there’s a lot of concern. I understand that it’s divided the town.”
“Once a house is built on top of that property, that material is no longer available and it has to come from outside. And … it’s getting more and more expensive,” warned Heffernan. “The further we have to travel to get that gravel, the more it’s going to cost. We’re fortunate that we have a lot here, but we’re not the only community that that gravel serves.”
Reporter Andrew Stein can be reached at [email protected].  

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