Expanded gravel pit operation denied variance

HOLLIS – The zoning board on Thursday night denied an application for a variance that would have allowed the owner of a gravel pit to continue importing and selling landscaping materials, activities he has conducted on the site for years without town approval.

The five-member ZBA voted 4-0 to deny the application made by Douglas Orde, owner of Hollis Construction.

ZBA member Jim Belanger recused himself from voting, citing a lifelong friendship with Orde as a conflict of interest.

By law, Orde has 30 days to file a motion for a rehearing. An employee at Hollis Construction said Friday that Orde will meet with his attorney to consider his options.

Orde, who had been operating the landscaping materials business for years, was ordered to stop the operation in late October after the town issued a cease and desist order.

That order in effect barred Orde from taking in and selling bark mulch, loam, gravel, compost and other landscaping materials.

Orde’s gravel pit is grandfathered from the town’s extensive zoning ordinance, but the town building inspector determined that the expanded activities at the site violated zoning rules. Orde then sought a variance from the Zoning Board of Adjustment to continue his operation.

On March 19, the ZBA spent more than four hours debating Orde’s request, finally adjourning without making a decision.

Members of the public who attended the meeting were divided: four experts, including a real estate appraiser and a soil scientist, supported Orde’s application, as did several neighbors.

But others said the business, started as a gravel pit operation more than two decades ago, had changed, and grown busier in the past six years, around the same time some neighbors began to complain.

“We call it ‘Doug’s Dump,’ ” said Rideout Road resident Stephen Banks, one of the neighbors who opposed the operation. “There’s construction, debris, asphalt, noise at all hours.”

By contrast, resident Tom Enright, an Orde supporter, told the ZBA last week that it would be hypocritical to shut down the landscaping business when the town’s stump dump does the same thing just down the road.

Critics of the operation said that in addition to noise and odors coming from the operation, the activity in the yard could pollute a nearby aquifer.