Gravel protest goes on

MILFORD – A gravel removal operation at the Brox property has been going on since late March, but the leader of the group fighting it says she is not giving up.

Brox Environmental Citizens, lead by Suzanne Fournier, has appealed a 4-3 decision by the water commission bureau of the state Department of Environmental Services.

“We are fighting more than ever,” Fournier said on the phone last week, saying her group will appeal the recent DES decision to support the town, and if that appeal does not succeed, will take the case to the state Supreme Court.

Town administrator Mark Bender told selectmen recently that so far the town has earned more than $26,600 from the sale of 18,400 cubic yards of material.

Bender also said contractor Northeast Sand and Gravel has completed some pit restoration and is working with New Hampshire Fish and Game to build alternative habitats for turtles and other species that are considered endangered in the state.

The gravel pit is in the Brox community lands, a section of the 270-acre town-owned property set aside for future town facilities, such as recreation fields, schools and cemeteries.

In March, the zoning board dismissed an appeal from abutter Ruthann Oullette, agreeing with the town’s attorney that a gravel operation at the site of the old Brox Industries’ property is grandfathered. The board also said under state law municipalities don’t have to abide by zoning regulations.

On the Brox Environmental Citizens’ Facebook page, Fournier said “the massive gravel excavation operation” will have negative effects on endangered wildlife, because of the fragmentation and destruction of habitat.

She also said the revenue is not a “fair justification” and “ironically, the State knows it costs huge amounts of money to restore species and much less to help them survive in the first place. Why can’t the State get the Town to understand that important message?”

At the selectmen’s May 29 meeting, Chris Labonte, of Marcey’s Way, asked town officials what happens to the revenue from the operation, and town finance director Jack Sheehy said it goes into the general fund and offsets the tax rate, the same way revenue from vehicle registrations does.

Labonte also wanted to know about the costs relating to the operation, and selectmen said they’d get back to him.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.

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