News Feature

Originally published in The Weekly Packet, July 6, 2017
Surry planning board holds mining permit valid, approval pending

by Anne Berleant

A mining permit issued to M.E. Astbury and Son, Inc. for extracting gravel from an existing pit on Morgan Bay Road stands as valid, the Surry Planning Board said at a June 28 meeting.

“Mr. Astbury has his rights and we can’t deny them,” Chairman Bill Barker said.

This came despite a stay of an abutter’s appeal by the Board of Appeals last week to allow the planning board to create and approve a mineral extraction permit application. At that meeting, the abutter, Scarlet Kinney, and her attorney, Sally Mills, were told that the planning board would review Astbury and Son’s permit application. “I recommended the board review and approve the newly developed application by vote this month. Then, in July, the board will review Mr. Astbury’s application,” Barker said in a June 26 email to The Packet.

The process highlights areas lacking clarity in the Unified Development Ordinance and the difficulties facing a volunteer board in applying the UDO to new situations.

“We are all volunteer[s] and do the best we can and impart fairness to all involved based upon facts and the regulations we have to follow,” Barker wrote in his email. At the board’s June 28 meeting, he said the “UDO is open to some interpretation.” He said that amending the UDO is a democratic process, open to and voted upon by Surry residents, and that he encouraged Kinney to submit proposed amendments.

Kinney and members of the conservation committee question the appropriateness of an industrial use, which mining falls under in the UDO, in rural, residential or roadside commercial zones.

The board granted Astbury the permit after determining he would comply with local and DEP requirements. Selectmen then directed the board to develop an application. That application form was unanimously approved by the planning board. It follows DEP regulations and requires a site plan review for an extraction area over five acres, which is when DEP oversight kicks in. Astbury’s gravel pit will be under five acres to start and will likely expand. After the meeting, Astbury said he has no plans to extract gravel before the board reviews his application on Wednesday, July 26, at 7 p.m. at the Surry Town Office.