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RINDGE

Fitzwilliam officials won’t endorse quarry petition

Rindge man’s investment firm looking to access granite stone

  • The Fitzwilliam Planning Board held a public hearing Tuesday night on a petition article which proposes quarry reclamation in the residential zone.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

    The Fitzwilliam Planning Board held a public hearing Tuesday night on a petition article which proposes quarry reclamation in the residential zone.

    (Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

  • The Fitzwilliam Planning Board held a public hearing Tuesday night on a petition article which proposes quarry reclamation in the residential zone.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

    The Fitzwilliam Planning Board held a public hearing Tuesday night on a petition article which proposes quarry reclamation in the residential zone.

    (Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

  • The Fitzwilliam Planning Board held a public hearing Tuesday night on a petition article which proposes quarry reclamation in the residential zone.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

    The Fitzwilliam Planning Board held a public hearing Tuesday night on a petition article which proposes quarry reclamation in the residential zone.

    (Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

  • The Fitzwilliam Planning Board held a public hearing Tuesday night on a petition article which proposes quarry reclamation in the residential zone.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • The Fitzwilliam Planning Board held a public hearing Tuesday night on a petition article which proposes quarry reclamation in the residential zone.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • The Fitzwilliam Planning Board held a public hearing Tuesday night on a petition article which proposes quarry reclamation in the residential zone.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

FITZWILLIAM — Residents and town officials spoke adamantly against a petition warrant article Tuesday night that would permit the collection and sale of previously quarried granite in Fitzwilliam’s residential district.

The petition warrant article, they said, speaks too specifically to KMO Associates LLC’s interest in reopening its Webb Hill Quarry, which is located between the residential areas of Webb Hill Road and East Lake Road. In a near unanimous vote, with Planning Board Chair Terry Silverman abstaining, the board voted not to endorse the petition article on the 2013 town warrant.

Town officials say Aaron E. Olson of Rindge and his KMO Associates investment firm based in Fitchburg, Mass., submitted the petition calling for quarry reclamation to be permitted in the residential district. Fitzwilliam residents told the Ledger-Transcript this week that Aaron Olson’s wife, Kim Olson, went door-to-door to homes on Route 12 in Fitzwilliam in December to collect the required 25 signatures in support of the petition article. None of the petitioners spoke on behalf of the request at the meeting Tuesday.

KMO is at the center of an ongoing state investigation that has reportedly cost investors millions of dollars, and is tied to two lawsuits that allege Aaron Olson was running a fraudulent scheme. The Webb Hill Quarry’s abutting landowners have questioned the viability of a proposal to reopen the quarry in light of the lawsuits and the investigation into Aaron Olson’s investment-related activities.

Kim Olson attended the Planning Board’s public hearing Tuesday night on the proposed zoning articles, but did not speak in defense of the petition. Instead, Associate Erik Newman of Concord-based Gallagher, Callahan & Gartrell law firm spoke on behalf of his client, the Olsons and KMO.

Newman told the board that adding quarry reclamation as a permitted use in the town’s zoning laws would allow for previously quarried stone at the Webb Hill Quarry to be collected, transported and sold. The petition warrant article would allow quarry reclamation as a new and permitted use in the town’s rural and residential district, but does not speak to on-site blasting or explosive demolition.

But the definition of reclamation drafted by the petitioners strays too far from the state’s definition of quarry reclamation, which refers to reclamation as restoring a quarry to its natural state, said Vice Chair of the Planning Board Macreay Landy. “Reclamation for the state is restoration of the property,” he said. “You are changing a restoration [definition] and making it a commercial operation, which has no rules and regulations.”

Planning Board member Suzanne Gray said a petition warrant article aimed at advancing the commercial interests of one property owner does not make sense for the town as a whole. “This looks like something proposed for a special project we don’t have an application for. That is not how we go about looking at zoning ordinances in the town of Fitzwilliam.”

Planning Board member Carlotta Lilback Pini, who is the Rindge town administrator, asked why none of the 25 people who signed the petition were in attendance at the meeting “Twenty-five or more people signed this petition. How come they are not speaking to it? ...I think it speaks volumes that the petitioners aren’t even here to present this article to their neighbors. Why not?”

Residents in attendance at the meeting questioned whether or not the 25 signatures had been verified and, if so, did the residents truly understand what their signatures of support meant. Silverman said the town had verified all 25 signatures.

Newman said the proposed amendment is not intended to circumvent a municipal site plan regulation or the public hearing process. “It is simply to create a certain category of use that would be vetted through the existing site plan approval process that provides appropriate Planning Board hearings to air those concerns,” he said.

In addition to review of the petition article, the future of mining in the town and how to best regulate it was debated between members of the Select Board and Planning Board. The selectmen proposed including mining as a separate section within the town’s zoning regulations, but Silverman questioned the level of research the Select Board had undertaken to date and the motives of the Select Board’s legal counsel.

Silverman said Fitzwilliam already regulates excavation, which covers the removal of earthen materials, including previously quarried stone. Changing the regulations to match the state’s definition of mining as outlined in RSA 12-E would create a complex series of effects that would result in less stringent laws in town, he said.

“We have vetted this ordinance on several occasions, and we are in compliance,” Silverman said, referring to the town’s regulation for mining.

The Planning Board recommended that the selectmen pull the article from the warrant in order to seek further clarity on the matter before it goes to the voters. But if the selectmen choose to rewrite the proposed warrant article, they will need to repost it for public hearing this week in order for it to be included on the March ballot.

Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 228 or adandrea@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @alyssadandrea.

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