A controversial decision is before the Oak Bluffs zoning board of appeals this summer as it considers whether or not to require the owners of Goodale’s sand and gravel pit to apply for a special permit to mine new areas of their 100.2-acre property.
A public hearing opened before the zoning board last week that saw strong expressions on both sides of the issue.
In a letter to owner Jerry Goodale this spring, Oak Bluffs building inspector James Dunn ordered the company to apply for a special permit because the sand and gravel operation “has been substantially extended since the use became nonconforming.”
Goodale Construction has appealed the ruling to the zoning board, claiming a grandfathered right to continue their work on the property without a special permit. The company disputes the claim that the use of other portions of their property qualifies as an expansion.
Neighbors to the property have voiced concerns about the growing impact of the business on their neighborhoods and the clearing of vegetation near their homes.
The sand and gravel pit has operated on the Vineyard Haven-Edgartown Road since before 1948, when zoning laws were adopted in town.
At the public hearing Thursday Kevin O’Flaherty, an attorney for Goodale’s, said although operations have indeed moved to a different part of the property, the work being done there has decreased.
“It is not the case that because the hole is bigger it is an expansion because that would mean every time a shovel of dirt came out of the pit, they would have to come before you for a Section 6 finding,” he said.
The total output of sand and gravel from the pit has diminished, he said, as have the hours of operation.
“It seems as though you just moved one operation from one corner to the other, basically that is what you did and that caught the attention of the neighbors and they assumed that you were growing because now you are behind their house, a little bit closer,” said Joe Re, a member of the zoning board.
When the pit first became operational, the region around it was sparsely populated. In the decades since, homes have sprung up in its vicinity.
Resident Patricia Mark questioned the owners about their future plans. She asked how many additional acres they were planning to mine, and cautioned them about the pit’s impact on the children of the neighborhood.
“Where does the value of life come in for everybody or are we just thinking of one thing, industrial?” she asked. “We are not bad people; we would like to work with you, but we are not going to let you come into our neighborhood.”
Richard Fried, a resident of the Iron Hill neighborhood, which abuts the Goodale property to the northwest, said his main concerns were environmental.
“I live there, and very often I have a strong smell of asphalt in my backyard, which causes me to close all the windows in my home and leave,” he said.
He wondered what rights the neighbors have in terms of environmental protections.
“This is Martha’s Vineyard, so I say not only should we have 21st century environmental standards, but we should have Martha’s Vineyard environmental standards, because people come here because of the wonderful environment here,” he said.
Dale McClure, who works in construction, commended the company for taking good care of the gravel pit, which he described as an economic boon for the Island.
“I would commend them for being honorable stewards of the land,” Mr. McClure said. “They have taken very good care of that pit as a gravel pit, we can’t say it’s anything else, and the island needs one, and we are all here and we have houses and yards and roads because that pit exists.”
The hearing will be continued on July 17 at 7:45 p.m.; at that time remaining members of the public will be heard, said hearing chairman Kris Chvatal. “The board is very anxious to bring this to a conclusion at that time,” Mr. Chvatal said.