AUGUSTA — The Planning Board on Tuesday denied a local construction company’s request to blast rock in a pit on West River Road out of concern it could double the amount of blasting in the area and further disturb residents of a nearby neighborhood.

Board members voted unanimously to deny Harold Warren Construction’s application to add quarry blasting as an accessory use at the company’s pit. However, they did vote to renew the company’s mineral extraction license for another five-year period at the site, just without permission to blast.

The pit near the Kennebec River is next to a controversial pit owned and operated by McGee Construction, which has generated numerous complaints from some neighbors of the nearby Grandview neighborhood, and where up to 10 blasts per year are allowed.

Board members said permitting blasting in a pit adjacent to McGee’s pit, even though it is on the opposite side of the pit from the neighborhood, would be asking for more trouble and add to the concerns of neighborhood residents.

“I’m concerned, having gone through this, since the two pits abut, how it would affect the quality of life in the neighborhood, where they were very concerned about the 10 blasts,” said Tom Connors, board member. “It seems like we’re doubling the impact on the neighborhood.”

McGee’s license, which includes the ability to blast in order to quarry rock, was renewed by the Planning Board in October.

McGee Construction, unlike Harold Warren Construction, already had permission to blast as part of that company’s mineral extraction license, permission that McGee has had since first obtaining that license.

Board member Alison Nichols said a major difference in why the two mineral extraction licenses were approved with different terms — one without permission to blast and the other with — is McGee already had a state license to blast on West River Road before the city adopted a mineral extraction ordinance and local licensing requirement.

Quirion Construction also had permission to blast in two pits and is the only other pit owner in Augusta with permission to blast rock granted as part of a mineral extraction license.

“I think, since this is a new use, we don’t have to grant it,” Nichols said of Harold Warren Construction’s request. “Unlike with Steve McGee and Pete Quirion, there was no blasting, ever, in this pit. Mr. McGee’s quarry was licensed by the state before our mineral extraction ordinance was even written.”

She said McGee has been allowed to continue to blast “but not without a great deal of concern, opposition and angst on the part of the neighbors living nearby.”

Steve Roberge, of SJR Engineering, who represented Harold Warren Construction at Tuesday’s board meeting, said before the board voted to reject the request to blast the site would be the fourth rock quarry in Augusta, and of the four, it would the farthest from any residences.

“Where our quarry is located, it’s around 1,800 feet to the closest house, and that neighborhood has the only residence(s) in this entire area where the Warren quarry would be,” Roberge said. “Nothing is even close to it.”

Roberge said Warren would work with his blasting contractor, Maine Drilling and Blasting, to make sure blasting in the two pits wouldn’t take place on the same day, which he said was unlikely anyway.

Justin Pourier, chairman of the Planning Board, said he was concerned that the board, in rejecting the blasting application, would have the decision overturned by the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals, “… because they’re right next to each other, and the other pit is closer to the neighborhood than this one.”

Nichols said she was willing to take that chance.

Harold Warren Construction’s 50-acre parcel, only a small portion of which is mined actively, is used only occasionally as a source of gravel and fill material, according to application materials filed with the city.

The pit was first licensed for mineral extraction in 2007, and its license was renewed in 2013.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj