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Lamoine Conservation Commission

Work Session

August 30, 2005 -Minutes

Invited guests Ron and Ruth Franzius, Chair and Secretary of the Hancock Planning Board were present, as was Michele Gagnon, City Planner, Ellsworth. Also present were Fred Stocking, Tom Spruce, Donna Theall, Carol Korty, Lynda Tadema-Wielandt, members of the Lamoine Conservation Commission. Donna Thorburn, alternate was also present. Other attendees were John Wuorinen, Willem Brutsaert, Joan Bragdon.

In response to a question on how did the town of Hancock arrive at an Aquifer Protection Overlay Zone, Ruth Franzius stated that they had originally wanted to include an area 1000 feet beyond the aquifer, but this was voted down. It does protect anything on or within 300 feet over it. Some of the minutes of 1993 included a comment about what if Ellsworth and Lamoine have something similar that allows specific activities over the aquifer. The ordinance has been in operation since 1994. The ordinance included a number of changes, not only the Overlay. It was passed the first time it was voted on. The success was based on having quite a few informal workshops. Communication was key on something so controversial. Whenever there were changes, there were handouts saying why they were needed. In the beginning there were 5 informal meetings, and then a public hearing at which 100 people attended. There was a good representation of the population. But they have to be informed users. They could be against it, but they still need to have a pretty clear understanding of what they're voting on. A prime example is LD-1 vote in Lamoine that was voted down because people did not understand it.

There are 17 activities that require a groundwater analysis and special approval. They were very careful to spell out what the groundwater analysis should contain. In addition, the applicant pays the town a technical review fee. $1000 for major projects. The Town in turn selects and pays the consultant – mutually acceptable to both parties. Once drawn down by 50%, the applicant is required to build it back to $1000. It was suggested that the word “reasonable” needed to be inserted in the ordinance regarding expenditures. Requires both town and applicant be reasonable, and keeps the town from spending too much money. The CEO keeps tabs on them annually.

Fred Stocking mentioned that Yarmouth has a system that works for them. They have the expert on retainer. They collect the technical review fee and use it to underwrite the firm. A citizen board needs a backup when presented with technical information that one doesn't understand. Ellsworth also has a similar plan wherein it controls the pursestrings for hiring the informed expert. Since both Hancock and Ellsworth have ordinances requiring a technical review fee from applicants, it could be a strong argument for Lamoine to establish a similar plan.

The existence of the Aquifer Protection Overlay Zone probably have discouraged some proposed uses in that district that would have been detrimental to the aquifer. There is a new application for a car body shop. They will have to provide a groundwater impact analysis. There already is a body shop in the Overlay Zone as well as Downeast Graphics, a printing business, that are also grandfathered. Both are located the industrial/commercial zone. When asked if there is no legal recourse to get grandfathered businesses in compliance, the response was that over time the idea is to get them to go. Put the provision in there so that when the use stops, they have to stop operating. There is a principal of law that says you construe against the prohibited use even if it's grandfathered. Any marginal issue should be construed against that use by making it a prohibited use you are declaring that it is essentially against public policy for that area. It is important to make sure ordinances are strong. Zoning is a way to try to do something for the greater good of the community even though not everyone is happy with them.

A copy of Uses which are potential threats to groundwater was handed to the Lamoine Conservation Commission. Clearly, there is a need for a unified approach to managing the water supply in the aquifer. It is a shared resource. It is a legitimate concern. If one of the towns is not taking steps to protect the aquifer, whereas the other two are, the aquifer is still at risk.

The list of recommendations made by John Peckenham of the Mitchel Center , University of Maine , Orono, included potential problems with some of the gravel pits in Lamoine. We have a concern about the number of unused gravel pits in Lamoine. They present potential problems – namely, people dumping, people racing around on 4-wheelers causing spills and accidents. They should be re-sloped and planted for adequate filtering. Research should be done for better filtering.

Reclamation of abandoned pits is very important. Lamoine started five years ago making certain that reforestation plans are drawn up and are on file. Gravel pit owners must follow the state plan that requires planting grass and trees. We need another 3-year cycle before we now how successful it is. The state has very detailed reforestation requirements. A way to encourage owners of the abandoned pits to reclaim them is to fine them for any prohibited activities going on in their pit. It's a heavier stick than a carrot. We have a possibility that one of the pits might be refurbished as a model to other pit owners – more of a carrot approach.

Another important point made by Peckenham was to have the level of the groundwater measured at the time of the application and that should be the level that is maintained throughout the 3 years of excavation. Language to that effect should be added to our ordinance and enforced. Now it is remeasured as the level of the pit is excavated.

Last suggestion deals with a comprehensive plan issue; that is, how much of the resource de we want to let go. Right now 1/5 or ¼ of the surface area over the aquifer is gravel pits. Peckenham said that the more gravel we remove, the more we put the water at risk. At some point we might want to pump out the water out as a resource for the town. Rather than individual wells we might think of it as a public water supply source. In the future that might we worth more than gravel. There are enough water wars already taking place, no just in the desert areas. Don't know how to figure out the value of gravel and value of water. It's hard for individual municipalities to decide, but also it is something that we should jointly work on. One needs water to survive.

Lamoine's Long Range Planning Committee has decided to spend a considerable number of months researching various resources of the town and begin to pull together the factual bases that might go into a new comprehensive plan preparatory to having the town decide whether to engage in the recertification process of the town's comprehensive plan approved in 1992. So that maybe some of the work needed can be done in that forum as well as this one.

Lamoine needs to get an ordinance that protects the aquifer, at least to the extent that Hancock does. That seems to be the most reasonable approach. At least to those who resist any additional restrictions, we can say, “Hancock has it, it's not oppressive, it's working, and it provides some protection, and because we're on the same aquifer, we should reciprocate.” Ellsworth does not have a mineral extraction ordinance. Ellsworth can look at Lamoine's and Hancock's ordinances and try to come up with something comparable. It needs to be more stringent than DEP's since it does not cover anything 5 acres or under.

As we continue to gather data with Peckenham continued monitoring of the wells, and if we find that things are not going well with parallel ordinances, at least we are in a better position to make them stronger.

At our last meeting we come up with 6 steps to proceed on.

  1. Review Hancock's ordinance and how it has worked
  2. Review aquifer protection zone history in Lamoine
  3. Go to existing body of documents available in Town Hall that may yield valuable history data – Cold Spring water testing, tests done when landfill was capped
  4. Work on funding follow-up testing that Mitchell Center has recommended for the next few years to compare with this year's data.
  5. Is one-acre zoning defensible in long run with a septic system on every lot – not advisable. Will check state sources and educational sources to find existing research on that.
  6. Liaison with Hancock and Ellsworth.

Points for further consideration:

•  Lamoine needs to look into reclamation of abandoned pits.

•  Need to address the grandfathered businesses. Need to have something in our ordinance that requires present-day pollution testing and compliance with the newer requirements as part of a remediation of a problem that was scientifically found.

•  Obtain funds for continued testing of wells. The Island Foundation may provide funds for further research. We may be able to work something with him if we each of us had town monies to contribute, that can show the Island Foundation that we are serious about this. That would be more cost effective way to do it. This has not been discussed with Peckenham.

•  Ellsworth to look into a mineral extraction ordinance.

•  Lamoine needs to get an ordinance that protects the aquifer, at least to the extent that Hancock does.

•  The three towns will systematize the way we communicate with one another. We can exchange minutes on a monthly basis. Will get email addresses.

•  Will look into past records of well testings to see if we can come p with a basis for comparison. This should include shallow wells, dug wells and so forth. Also incorporate a few wells adjacent or within the gravel pits. Would need ½ dozen wells in each town as a representative sample. May be able to use the wells that were tested in the Gerber Study in '84 and then again in 2002.

The meeting adjourned at 9:10 .