WINDHAM — A representative from the Ledge Road project was back in front of the Planning Board May 1 during the months-long process to acquire the go-ahead for a proposed 93,000 square-foot project.
The board began hearing about the eight-acre project to develop a three-story self storage facility in September 2018. The project would require blasting on site to develop.
During the five public hearings, neighboring residents voiced opposition to the blasting, and the developer brought plans to this meeting that greatly reduced the potential blasting on the land.
Project engineer Tom Burns, representing the developer PPI Enterprises, presented a plan that would decrease the potential blasting to disrupting about 10,000 cubic feet of material.
“We were trying to find any way to get that number down any way we could,” Burns said. “This is kind of a balancing act.”
His plan involves several weak blasts to do what a few stronger blasts could complete. The developer would need to bring in a blasting company to do that work, increasing the expense, so it was in his best interest to keep blasting to a minimum as well, Burns explained.
A decade ago Windham created a blasting ordinance that was stricter than state standards because of blasting that occurred at this particular site.
In 2006 Meadowcraft Development started blasting in the area to construct an office park.
Residents commonly refer to that project as a “Trojan Horse.” No office park was built at that site, and residents were concerned that those permits were given to the project that was instead essentially a mine.
Residents faced issues with water contamination, broken windows and other property damage from the 119 blasts that occurred at the site.
Board members and residents raised concerns about potential contaminants from previous blasting being brought back into water sources because of the renewed disruption to the area.
“There are other contaminants that get shaken up when you blast and I imagine when you hammer too,” Joanne Vignos told the board.
After the blasts, she found arsenic and manganese in her water, which turned orange in the process.
Joanne Vignos asked the board to look closely at the water testing regulations for blasting, asking that all aspects of the water, not only carcinogens, were measured.
The board is nearing a decision on the project pending approval of the site’s newly redesigned driveway, as well as more information about blasting in the area.
The board voted 7-0 to continue the public hearing until June 5, at which time the board aims to have a blasting expert shed some light on the potential hazards.
In a straw poll vote, all seven members present, including the alternate, said they would not approve the plan as proposed currently without having experts weigh in.
Board member Margret Crisler and Chair Paul Gosselin expressed that the board should have the expert testimony to decide whether or not to approve the project.
“We are supposed to be impartial… we don’t have any real reasons to deny,” Crisler said. She explained the board needed to weigh the decision based on a concerns from the neighbors but also with the rights of the developer.
Gosselin agreed, adding that he did not feel he was in a position to make an informed decision one way or another, and that the board needed to flush out the reasons not to approve for the decision to potentially stand in court.
Multiple board members expressed an interest in making a decision at the June 5 meeting after hearing from a variety of experts.
“Fortunately it should be the last time we hear the project,” Gosselin said.