The lot at 778 Middle Road in Dresden shows the entrance to the site of a proposed gravel pit on the east side of Middle Road. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

DRESDEN — The Dresden Board of Appeals will continue deliberations next week over whether the town’s Planning Board wrongfully approved a quarry application in the rural living district in town. 

Two appeals over the matter were heard by the Board of Appeals Thursday night in front of an audience of around 40 at Pownalborough Hall.

Barbara and Mike Fraumeni, two residents in town, filed an appeal on March 5 over the Planning Board’s decision. A group of citizens in town submitted an additional appeal of the same decision on March 10, the latter of which was dismissed by the Board of Appeals for a lack of standing.

The Fraumenis live across the street from the proposed quarry site, at 776 Middle Road, and claim the approval of the 50-acre site does not conform with the town’s comprehensive plan, which designates the area as a rural living district. Therefore, the planning board should not have approved the quarry application, the Fraumenis say.

“The major point we want to bring is the issue of compatibility for heavy industrial use in the rural living district — compatibility in the neighborhood and compatibility in the natural set of standards. They are two different areas, but both need to be met. If you meet compatibility with the ordinance, it still has to be in harmony with the comprehensive land plan,” said Russell Pierce, the couple’s attorney.  

Three members of the Board of Appeals — temporary Chair Paul Tunkle, Jeffrey Bickford and Lorna Mackinnon — heard arguments from both sides and took seven public comments, the majority of which were on the couple’s side. Board of Appeals member Allan Moeller recused himself for being too close to the situation, and board member Jon Madore was absent.

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The quarry is proposed by Richmond resident Nate Tribbet, who owns MTN Sand & Gravel.

Tribbet’s attorney, Ben Smith, from Smith Legal LLC, assured the public that the quarry would follow the strict guidelines set forth by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the town ordinance.

Pierce argued on behalf of the Fraumenis and said the site of the proposed quarry pit will affect Dresden residents’ quality of life through noise, traffic and the value of their homes, and would also infringe on the estuary birds and animals in the area. 

About 40 residents attended the Dresden Board of Appeals meeting Thursday night. Emily Duggan

“The Rural Living Districts are intended for rural residential, limited low-intensity commercial, agriculture, timber harvesting, recreational and other natural resource dependent uses that would be compatible with and not impair the existing uses and resources,” Pierce said, as he read the town’s description of the district.  

The couple has fought the town on the quarry for months and brought the issue to the Lincoln County Superior Court, with the allegation that the Department of Environmental Protection granted a license to MTN Sand & Gravel without properly verifying that the company completed its application. MTN Sand & Gravel has since reapplied, Smith said Thursday night. 

The issue has gained momentum from residents, as citizens circulated a petition for a moratorium on quarries and mining in town that will be heard in a public hearing on May 29.

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The one person who spoke in favor of the quarry, Gary Nash, compared the noise and situation at Moose Mountain in Richmond, which started as a quarry pit but has not caused any problems in town. Nash also is Tribbet’s grandfather.

But one resident said Richmond is not a rural living district, and Dresden resident Julia Fleming said she moved to town for a reason. 

“People come to Dresden for the same reasons why we did,” she said. “It’s quiet, we don’t have neighbors slammed against each other or any kind of excessive noise, but now, we are going to have the quarry.” 

Other residents wondered if the correct departments were consulted by the Planning Board when the board made its decision.

In Fleming’s statement, she wondered if the Department of Transportation was consulted about the traffic and the vehicles driving over Middle Road Bridge, was recently repaired.

Paul Merrill from the Department of Transportation told the Kennebec Journal on Friday that the bridge is posted at 15 tons and that a full gravel truck could not drive over it. There are other ways into the gravel pit, but the bridge is the main route.  

The Board of Appeals will resume its discussion at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 16, but citizen comment will not be heard.

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