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Enfield officials send landowner’s gravel pit proposal sent back to square one

  • Art Conkey, of Conkey Enterprises, has recently logged in the area of a former gravel pit in Enfield, N.H. Conkey is asking the Planning Board to approve a permit to reopen and expand the gravel pit he recently purchased on Bog Road. Richard Macie, of Enfield, is an abutter of the pit the photo taken from his land on Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022. ( Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Jennifer Hauck

  • From their home in Enfield, N.H., on Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022, Eastman residents Wendy Wormwood and her husband Chip Haley look over maps and discuss Conkey Enterprises' plan to reopen and expand a gravel pit Art Conkey recently purchased on Bog Road. Conkey has filed a permit with Enfield's Planning Board, waiting for their approval. ( Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Jennifer Hauck

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 9/16/2022 3:18:06 AM
Modified: 9/16/2022 3:17:47 AM

ENFIELD — A proposal to reopen a gravel pit on Bog Road has been delayed after the Enfield Planning Board asked landowner Art Conkey to resubmit his application for permits.

The decision made at Wednesday night’s meeting found that Conkey’s application was incomplete, essentially restarting the permitting process from the beginning and pushing any potential approval back months.

“It’s kind of like a do-over, and the ball is firmly in Mr. Conkey’s court to come in with a different application,” Rob Taylor, Enfield’s land use and community development administrator, said during a Thursday phone interview.

Residents in Grantham and Enfield, many of whom live in Eastman, have spoken out against resuming the gravel pit operation over concerns that it would impact drinking water. An aquifer that runs under Conkey’s property is a water source for more than 1,000 households, according to a letter written by the law firm BCM Environmental & Land Law, PLLC, which has been retained by Eastman residents and abutters Wendy Wormwood, Christopher Haley and Barry Cunningham.

Thomas Hanna, a lawyer with the firm, reiterated residents’ concerns at Wednesday night’s meeting when he presented the letter to the board.

“I think the aquifer is a legitimate concern for the abutters,” David Fracht, chairman of the planning board, said during the meeting, which was held at the town’s Public Works building on Lockehaven Road.

Hanna and Eastman residents also disputed Taylor’s determination that the gravel pit is grandfathered under the town’s zoning requirements.

The gravel pits predate Enfield’s zoning ordinance, which was established in 1991. The area where the pit in question is located is zoned for residential and agriculture uses. If a gravel pit remains inactive for longer than two years, an owner is required to reapply for a permit. Hanna and Eastman residents argue that because the gravel pit has not been in use since around 2016, it lost its grandfathered status.

Taylor contends that in order for the gravel pit to be considered abandoned, there had to be an intent to do so, meaning that it had to start being used for a different purpose.

The Planning Board also suggested that Conkey’s application was incomplete, in part, because he has not adequately addressed concerns about the impact on the aquifer. Members of the board suggested that Conkey hire an expert to help him redo and resubmit his permit application and that, despite indicating in his application that he had fulfilled the requirements of the permit, he did not. During an August Planning Board meeting, the board asked Conkey to compile more information, including a more detailed reclamation plan, which details what will happen to the property once all materials have been excavated.

“If you haven’t, I think you should take the time to develop the information whether you can do it by yourself or you need to hire an engineer to do it for you,” Fracht said. “This is information that you indicated that you have supplied and it ain’t there, I’m sorry.”

Earlier in the meeting, the Planning Board also deemed that the project is a “development of regional impact,” which means that neighboring towns are required by law to have a say in the process.

“I believe it is because we have abutters here from Springfield, Grantham, not only just from Enfield,” Planning Board Vice Chairman Dan Kiley said. “By what you have in the regulations, this does affect other municipalities, because we said they are abutters.”

That means the town will now begin the process of notifying the town governments of Grantham; Springfield, N.H.; and the Village District of Eastman, which supplies water to all of Eastman and is considered a municipality. While the roughly 95-acre property is mostly in Enfield, a small portion of it is Grantham and it also borders Springfield. The designation also requires the Upper Valley Lake Sunapee Regional Planning Commission to be notified.

Planning Board members also said that they did not have enough information about the location of the aquifer to make a decision and requested that an independent expert, like someone from the state of New Hampshire, be brought in to provide more information about it.

“Otherwise, we are just talking about ‘we thinks,’ and that’s not going to get us anywhere,” Planning Board member Brad Rich said.

Fracht agreed that a decision cannot be made based on speculation and that there were too many unknowns. His concerns were reiterated by other members, including Tim Jennings, who said they need more information about the aquifer, including in what direction it flows.

“I don’t see that as something we’re going to be able to determine just by looking at a few maps,” Jennings said.

An expert could provide that information.

“We need an answer to the question of: ‘Will a gravel pit impact the aquifer and will it affect the wells of the Eastman community?’ and, if it does, what mitigation measures can be taken by Mr. Conkey to eliminate or at least minimize the possibility of an impact on the community water source?” Fracht added.

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.


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