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Fitzwilliam residents unite to oppose KMO’s quarrying interests

  • More than 20 concerned Fitzwilliam residents gathered Tuesday night to express their concerns about a proposal to reopen a dormant quarry near the center of town.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

    More than 20 concerned Fitzwilliam residents gathered Tuesday night to express their concerns about a proposal to reopen a dormant quarry near the center of town.

    (Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • More than 20 concerned Fitzwilliam residents gathered Tuesday night to express their concerns about a proposal to reopen a dormant quarry near the center of town.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

    More than 20 concerned Fitzwilliam residents gathered Tuesday night to express their concerns about a proposal to reopen a dormant quarry near the center of town.

    (Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • More than 20 concerned Fitzwilliam residents gathered Tuesday night to express their concerns about a proposal to reopen a dormant quarry near the center of town.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • More than 20 concerned Fitzwilliam residents gathered Tuesday night to express their concerns about a proposal to reopen a dormant quarry near the center of town.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

FITZWILLIAM — A postcard paid for by the Fitzwilliam Granite Company of Rindge and received by Fitzwilliam residents this week claims that reopening Webb Hill Quarry will boost the local economy and make Fitzwilliam safer by removing “dangerous piles of granite.” But residents say the postcard is propaganda, just another move by the Olsons of Rindge to circumvent town zoning laws in order to start a commercial quarrying operation.

Residents’ receipt of the postcard comes more than a month after town officials say KMO, owned by Aaron E. Olson of Rindge and his KMO Associates investment firm based in Fitchburg, Mass., submitted a petition warrant article that if approved would allow the collection, transportation and sale of previously quarried granite in the town’s rural and residential district. According to a corporation filing with the N.H. Secretary of State’s Office, Fitzwilliam Granite Company began in July 2012 for the purpose of selling dimension granite. The company is registered to Kim J. Olson, Aaron Olson’s wife.

The postcard encourages people to vote in favor of quarry reclamation at the polls in March, but a group of more than 20 concerned residents is speaking out against the petition. The citizens group, which formed this year in response to the Olsons’ interest in reopening the quarry, met for the third time Tuesday night to share their concerns, educate neighbors and develop a strategy to defeat passage of the petition.

Declining property values, increased noise, dust, higher traffic for road repairs, and potential contamination of the town’s water supply and nearby Laurel Lake are but a few of the concerns residents and town officials have expressed publicly about the Olsons’ quarrying interests. Abutters have raised questions about KMO’s legal troubles, too. KMO is named in two pending lawsuits that allege Aaron Olson was running a fraudulent investment scheme, in which multiple investors lost thousands and, in some cases, millions of dollars. News broke in April 2012 that the N.H. Bureau of Securities is investigating all of Aaron Olson’s investment-related practices. That investigation is ongoing, according to Kevin Moquin, auditor with the state Bureau of Securities.

Aaron Olson and Kim Olson could not be reached for comment by press time Wednesday.

At Tuesday’s concerned citizens’ gathering, Fitzwilliam resident and former Republican State Rep. Richard Dwinell said he was appalled by the postcard that claims reopening the quarry will provide jobs and a valued community resource. “I can’t see them hiring anyone from town,” he said. “Their idea is to go in there, take the granite out and pay off the Ponzi scheme.”

The quarry, located just 7.6 miles from Olson’s home on Butternut Lane in Rindge, is home to approximately 16.7 million cubic yards of surface stone, which state environmental and land-use officials say is likely worth millions of dollars. But that doesn’t include the granite KMO has yet to mine.

KMO project planner and engineer Hal Wilkins and KMO attorney Erik Newman, of Concord-based Gallagher, Callahan & Gartrell law firm, have spoken with Fitzwilliam town officials about the company’s quarrying interests, but without a formal application on file the details and scope of the project remain vague.

“We spent a lot of time crafting a thoughtful ordinance that is fair,” said Webb Hill Quarry abutter Terry Silverman — who recused himself from the Planning Board on quarry-related matters — about long-standing town zoning regulations. But the petition warrant article seeks to undermine that, Silverman said, by advancing the commercial interests of a property owner, who isn’t even a Fitzwilliam resident.

“‘Make our town safer by restoring the Webb Hill historic quarry,’” Dwinell read from the Fitzwilliam Granite Company postcard, adding, “It’s ridiculous, [the Olsons] have nothing to do with Fitzwilliam.”

The foreseeable impact that reopening the quarry could have on private wells and Laurel Lake is a major concern, Resident Bob Hardy told the Ledger-Transcript before Tuesday’s meeting. “I can see where this could just blow this place apart,” he said. “If I lose water to my house, where will I go? This town’s money comes from tourism, people coming to the campgrounds. But if containments pollute the water supply, what’s the value?”

Town and/or state officials could request an ecological risk assessment and a water chemistry baseline assessment as a part of a quarry operations application process.

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

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