HARRISVILLE — During their latest meeting on the use of Harrisville’s recently purchased gravel pit, members of a town study committee outlined some possible solutions for residents’ concerns about future excavation work there.
The town bought the five-acre pit off Jaquith Road for $100,000 after voters approved the purchase during Harrisville’s town meeting in March. The property had been owned by David and Ranae O’Neil, according to county land records.
However, after the proposal drew lengthy debate, voters amended the article to require the town to form a committee composed of citizens and Harrisville officials to study the property, including its uses and conditions, before any additional action was taken.
The committee consists of Planning Board Co-Chairman Ryan Stone, Selectwoman Kathy Scott, Road Agent Wes Tarr and neighbors to the property Max Boyd and Michael Davidson.
The committee met for the first time May 5 and convened again Tuesday afternoon. The five members congregated at the Harrisville Town Offices, while eight people formed an audience via the video-conferencing platform Zoom.
One other meeting is scheduled for June 2 before the committee presents its findings during a public hearing June 11.
The new gravel pit was pitched as a money-saver during town meeting, as it sits next to a gravel pit the town already owns. The two properties would be merged and their materials, such as sand and stone, used to help maintain Harrisville’s roads.
But at the annual March meeting, residents whose homes surround the pit raised concerns about the additional noise that would come with excavation work, lowered property values and the parcel’s becoming an eyesore.
At Tuesday’s session, Lisa Anderson, who lives near the property, reiterated these misgivings. For Anderson, the noise is a “huge issue.”
“This isn’t just a little inconvenience. This isn’t somebody running their chainsaws to cut down a couple of trees. This equipment is really, really loud,” Anderson said.
With those worries in mind, committee members said they might recommend closing out and cleaning up the portion of the pit that is nearest to Hill Road and the homes, because there isn’t much material there for the town to utilize.
Members also suggested filling in the area around the pit with trees and other vegetation to provide better visual screening, as well as to help block dust.
One issue that can’t be completely mitigated, members said, is the noise, though they could recommend that work begin on the side opposite of the homes to reduce it.
Residents have also expressed concerns about whether excavation by the town would be as strictly regulated as when the pit was privately owned. Committee members said the town would still have to follow regulations in state and local permitting.
“... the only part the town is exempt from is the permitting regarding taxation on gravel,” Scott said. “All the other aspects must be respected by the town.”
There was also some confusion Tuesday about what the committee’s purpose truly is, based on the amendment.
Lisa Anderson and her husband, Erik, said it was their understanding that the committee would discuss different uses for the property aside from sand and gravel.
But committee members said this was not their interpretation and that they would review other uses for the parcel only if the pit's materials are exhausted.
After limited discussion on the matter, members moved on, saying they plan to discuss specifics of their recommendations for the pit at the next committee meeting in June.
Further information is available at the town offices, the town’s website says.
This article has been updated to clarify the circumstances in which the committee would look at alternative uses for the gravel pit.