The Kenai Peninsula Borough’s working group on gravel pits has several months before it’s due to make recommendations on any potential rule changes.
In the meantime, the group is soaking up all the information it can regarding the current policies, and not just local ones. At its meeting this week, the group heard from Robert Wood with the Mine Safety and Health Administration. That arm of the Department of Labor deals all aspects of mine safety, right down to the beeps on a backward-moving truck.
“Some new technology that I’ve seen that’s been around for two or three years is low frequency back-up beepers. It sounds almost like white noise. You can’t really hear it unless you’re behind the equipment. It’s really neat. Another thing I’ve seen is proximity back-up alarms. So if there’s no object or movement behind a piece of equipment, the alarm won’t work," Wood said.
That’s handy technology if you live near a gravel pit and don’t want to be constantly reminded of it. At the working group’s most recent meeting, general effects of a gravel pit were the discussion topic, and quality of life for homeowners in particular. But how many homeowners? Should the population density of an area be the reason for more or different rules?
Borough Attorney Holly Montague says different issues have given the borough a reason to consider that, but it’s a fine line to walk without getting into zoning, which the borough has no authority to do.
“I think it’s reasonable, but it’s also really challenging. The main idea really, is to protect neighborhoods. Trying to do that based on the density of the residential area that may be in close proximity to where you would put one of these businesses, it was difficult to do that. It’s like you’re one foot in zoning, one foot out of zoning when you do that.”
But there’s a flip side to that idea about density. Group member Brent Johnson related a story about a former Anchor Point resident who eventually had to move because the properties around his had all been developed as gravel pits, essentially leaving one little island that wasn’t much fun to live on.
“In that particular case, density worked against him. If he’d had a few more neighbors, he would have not been on an island. I don’t know the risk of that happening (again), but that’s a special consideration for people who live in places that are not very residential.”
Also discussed as a quality of life issue was routes for moving materials to and from a site. One likely recommendation to come from the group is to have operators provide possible alternative routes to keep those residential neighborhoods as quiet and dust free as is reasonable. The working group will meet again on March 14th.