Extraction Ordinance Explained

The following post was submitted by George C. Tremblay. Mr. Tremblay is a member of the Charlestown Town Council and Town Council Liaison to the Planning Commission.

George Tremblay

The Planning Commission has forwarded a draft of an extraction ordinance that would regulate mining operations (removal of sand, gravel, and stone) in Charlestown.  At the next meeting of the Town Council (10 Feb), the ordinance is scheduled to be advertised for a public hearing to be held on 10 March.  An earlier draft of the ordinance can be seen on the Town’s website.  The latest draft will be available with publication of the agenda for the Town Council meeting scheduled for 10 Feb.

As Council liaison to the Planning Commission, I worked with the Commission in drafting the ordinance, and offer below my summary view of what the proposed ordinance does, and does not, control, and items I believe to be in need of further attention.

Extraction Ordinance Summary

Per #155-26, new extraction industries are prohibited in Charlestown.

All current extraction entities, now operating as a legal non-conforming use, must apply for a temporary license within 3 months after this proposed ordinance goes into effect.  The 3 month delay allows time for the Building Official to review current practices at each site, and operators to modify those practices to conform to expectations.

Licenses are held by the applicant only, and are not transferable.

After the 3 month grace period, entities engaged in an extractive operation without a license are subject to a fine of $500 per acre for each day in violation.

Temporary License:

Legal standing for application for a temporary license shall be determined by the Building Official, following inspection of the extraction site for safe and sound practices.

There are no application fees or additional requirements for a temporary license.

The temporary license is in effect for no more than 18 months, during which time the entity is exempt from the requirements specific to a full license (#155-33 and #155-34).

To continue extraction beyond the date of expiration of the temporary license, the extraction entity must be approved for a full license.

Full License Process:

  • Development (Site) Plan Review by the Planning Commission
  • Public Hearing sponsored by the Planning Commission
  • Public Hearing sponsored by the Town Council
  • Town Council decision to grant a full license

Issuance of a Full License:

  • An initial application fee of $500 is required.  This fee is subsequently applied to the charge of $100 per acre of approved extraction site.
  • A full license is issued only after posting surety (a bond or other collateral funds) to guarantee restoration of the site upon cessation of operations.  Surety is set by the Town Council, as advised by a qualified professional.
  • A plan for incremental restoration (Phasing: #155-34.c.3.) is encouraged by reducing surety expenses to only that necessary for the area remaining to be extracted and/or restored.  Restored areas are exempt from further surety costs.
  • A restoration plan is required no later than 9 months prior to expected closure.  Savings in surety expenses through incremental restoration provides economic incentive to file a restoration plan as early as possible.
  • A full license is valid for up to 3 years.
  • Upon issuance of a full license, the operation shall be subject to standards of performance and closure set in # 155-33 and 155-34.

Issues remaining to be addressed:

1.  Restoration may require more fill than available from the soil stripped and stored on site at the start of the operation.  We should require that fill from off-site meet certain standards and be approved by the Building Official.  Otherwise, the Town risks having hazardous waste, construction debris, etc., imported for fill.

2.  A legal chain of custody for water samples is needed to determine harmful changes in water quality attributable to the extraction operation.  Professional advice on just what tests to monitor for maintenance of water quality is suggested.  Heavy metals and petroleum products come to mind.

3.  A requirement that applicants be responsible law-abiding citizens keeps surfacing in discussions of qualifications for a license.  This suggestion is driven by history in the extraction industry, and merits serious attention.