DRESDEN — The dispute over a stop-work order at a gravel pit off Cedar Grove Road will not be settled until next year.

That’s when the Dresden Board of Appeals is expected to reconvene and consider the information provided Tuesday by Heather Beasley, owner of the Ballard-Milligan Gravel Corp., and by Dresden Code Enforcement Officer James Valley.

Beasley is appealing the stop-work notice issued by the town at the end of July to the Ballard-Milligan Gravel Corp. for failing to comply with Dresden’s Land Use and Development Ordinance, which requires a 150-foot buffer be maintained between the excavated area and the property boundary.

In doing so, she and her attorney say they have been able to find no evidence that that Dresden’s land-use ordinance was properly enacted, and they now say it’s invalid.

The stop-work order came after Valley issued a notice of violation in May after touring the site. In a letter to Beasley explaining the violation, Valley said at least one section of the gravel pit appeared to be within 20 feet of the property line.

Beasley, and her attorney Ed Dardis, have disputed the town’s action, taking their case to the Dresden Board of Appeals. A hearing on the appeal was initially scheduled to take place earlier this month, but bad weather delayed it.

Heather Beasley, president of the Ballard-Milligan Gravel Corp., at the entrance Friday to the gravel pit off Cedar Grove Road. The town of Dresden issued a stop work order on the pit earlier this year, a decision Beasley is appealing. Kennebec Journal Staff Writer Jessica Lowell

Beasley’s appeal was made on three grounds.

The first is that town officials issued a stop-work order under the town’s Land Use and Development Ordinance, which was last updated in 2011. Because the gravel pit has been in operation for decades before that, and decades before any regulation was imposed on gravel pits, it’s grandfathered, meaning that it’s exempt from those regulations.

The second is that the setbacks cited don’t apply because Beasley maintains that no road or right-of-way exists and that despite requests, the town has offered no evidence establishing any legal interest in Ballard Road.

The third is that the town’s code enforcement officer and selectmen improperly rejected the proposed remediation plan that Beasley submitted after town officials issued the notice of violation on the gravel business, and they gave her no written notice about why the plan was not considered satisfactory.

The charge to the appeals board is to determine whether the town erred in issuing the stop-work order.

At the appeals board hearing Tuesday, Valley reviewed the circumstances that led to the notice of violation and the stop-work order.

Dardis, in turn, laid out Beasley’s case using survey maps to show the location of Beasley’s gravel pits and a binder an inch thick with exhibits, demonstrating both through town records and with people who have dug gravel that the pit has been in operation for decades before any reference to the town’s land-use ordinance was made.

He also supplied paperwork that shows that Ballard Road, which is also sometimes referred to as the county road, had been discontinued as a public road in 1878.

And in what was an apparent surprise to the board, he asserted that the Dresden’s Land Use Ordinance is invalid even though that was not included in the appeal.

“I do want to point out to the board that the Notice of Appeal touched on the three grounds. I do not, however, in the notice of appeal refer to the invalidity of the ordinance, which obviously is a major issue,” Dardis said.

“And that’s why it was such a big surprise to me,” Steve Collemer, appeals board chairman, said.

Dardis said the invalidity of a statute or ordinance is always an issue and it doesn’t matter when it is raised.

In seeking information through public records requests for this case, the search turned up no indication that the ordinance was enacted.

Collemer also sought comments from others at the hearing.

Jack Shaw, whose property and gravel pit abuts Beasley’s property to the south, said he didn’t agree with anything he heard Tuesday.

“Some of you are not going to like me very much,” Shaw said. “What I’ve been hearing doesn’t fit the criteria that we’re talking about.”

Years ago, he said, he dug too close the property line he shares with Beasley’s property, and as a result, regulatory action by the Department of Environmental Protection caused him to spend $33,000 to come into compliance with both state and town regulations.

“If this isn’t stopped, they will keep coming right into my pit,” he said. “They’re now within just a few feet of my property line.”

One of the issues cited by the town is that Ballard Road, which runs into Beasley’s property, is gone and no longer able to be used. Shaw said for years that road, which he called a county road, was in place and was a boundary from which he observed a setback.

“As it is now, I have no way of getting back to the back of my property because the road is gone. I’ve been adhering to all the rules and regulations I have been bound by, by DEP.  If this is case, why was I held by the town of Dresden to spend $33,000 … to do all my survey work and land use work? If there was no ordinance back then, we have a situation to deal with.”

He said he was told he could not dig anywhere near where Ballard-Milligan is digging, and that’s where the best gravel on the two properties is located.

“I would like to have the road put back so I can get to the back of my property. It’s been dug out,” he said.

The Dresden Board of Appeals is expected to meet again next month to begin deliberations on the evidence presented Tuesday. The date of that meeting has not yet been set.

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