Dresden voters on Tuesday narrowly approved a 180-day moratorium ordinance on mining and quarrying. Above, the entrance to the site of the MTN Sand & Gravel quarry pit at 778 Middle Road in Dresden. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

DRESDEN — A moratorium to temporarily stop mining and quarrying for 180 days in town narrowly passed by a single vote in Tuesday’s election.

The Moratorium Ordinance Regarding Mineral Extraction Facilities and Operations, which was approved 241-240 in unofficial vote counts, enacts the pause on any new quarry or gravel pits but allows already-approved and working gravel pits to continue working. Under the rules, gravel pits cannot expand by more than an acre, which is effective immediately.

Town Clerk Nicole Rogers said as of Wednesday afternoon that no one has requested a recount of the vote totals and the ballots were machine tabulated.

Officials say the pause will allow three members of the community to work with the Dresden Planning Board to review and potentially change the current quarry ordinance, which most residents in town agree needs to be updated and zoning in town needs to be defined.

Tuesday’s narrow vote highlighted just how divided residents have been on the issue. But Peter Walsh, a co-author of the citizen’s petition for the moratorium that gained more than 130 signatures, said the vote outcome was a voice of reason.

“Even though it was close, all of the arguments were there on both sides and there was a lot of emotion on both sides, but we think it’s the right thing to do,”  Walsh said Wednesday.


The Dresden Board of Appeals voted 3-1 last month in favor of an appeal by Barbara and Mike Fraumeni against the Planning Board. The Dresden couple argued that the Planning Board should not have approved an application by MTN Sand & Gravel for a quarry pit in the rural living section of town, near where they live.

Ben Smith, the attorney for MTN Sand & Gravel, which is owned by Nate Tribbet, spoke on behalf of his client and said that they believe the process of the moratorium being presented to voters was “fatally flawed” and denies MTN due process.

“We believe that the process leading to the moratorium being presented to voters was fatally flawed,” Smith said in a statement Wednesday, “that the moratorium is not supported by any ‘need’ as required by Maine law, and that the retroactive attempt to impose regulatory requirements under the moratorium upon MTN’s current operations as well as the new quarry project that received planning board approval is unconstitutional, denies MTN due process, constitutes a regulatory takings of MTN property, and violates other provisions of Maine law.”

Smith additionally said that his client filed a civil action related to the issue last week in the Lincoln County Superior Court.

The town now has 180 days to edit or create a new ordinance for the town regarding the use of quarries in town. The proposed moratorium stipulates a new ordinance should address where a quarry can operate, health and safety issues and the impact on the town.

Walsh said he believes strongly that the Planning Board made an error in approving MTN Sand & Gravel’s permit for the quarry proposed at 778 Middle Road in Dresden.

“This is a rurally residentially zoned area and a quarry is absolutely heavy industrial work and (we) have gravel and sand pits in town,” Walsh said, “but this is a new animal and it should be looked at from all angles.”


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