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Debate Continues Over West Roxbury Quarry Proposal

Officials have proposed a zoning amendment for a proposal to fill the West Roxbury quarry with construction soil.

The quarry at West Roxbury Crushed Stone. Credit: Google Maps
The quarry at West Roxbury Crushed Stone. Credit: Google Maps

The debate over whether West Roxbury Crushed Stone should be allowed to bring in outside materials to fill the 350-foot deep quarry on its property continued this week between the company's employees, West Roxbury residents and city officials. 

The crushed stone plant has proposed bringing in outside materials, such as construction soil, to fill the quarry it uses as part of its business. 

"It's so that you're not leaving a gaping hole," said Laura Lorusso Peterson, a representative of West Roxbury Crushed Stone. "When you have a quarry, reclamation is a part of modern quarry processing. There needs to be a plan of how you're going to finish."

As part of the proposal, Peterson said the plant has clarified to community members and officials that any materials used would include below RCS-1 level soils, or the acceptable threshold of soils by the state.

Officials and community members, though, have expressed concerns regarding the implications the effort may have on traffic in the area, as well as safety and on the community overall. 

On Monday, the West Roxbury Civic and Improvement Association hosted a meeting to discuss the proposed project at St. Stephen's Church.

At the meeting, residents and officials raised such concerns as the transparency of the toxicity of the soil that would be available, as well as the desire for testing of soil, soot, air, traffic, water and noise issues. Moreover, the group expressed concern that the potential volume of soil coming in could require as many as 300 trucks in the area per day. 

To read the full list of concerns raised, click here.

As a result of Monday's meeting, officials and community representatives plan to form a "working group" to keep conversation and conditions for the area ongoing and in the forefront. The group is also looking to collaborate with the plant's representatives to compose a "Memorandum of Understanding" document to explain explicit details of the proposal. 

But Monday's meeting was the latest of several that have been held over the past several months on the matter. 

At a public hearing last Thursday, Boston City Councilor Matt O'Malley introduced an amendment to Article 56.9 of the Boston Zoning Code that is tailored to apply to only West Roxbury's 10 conservation protection sub-districts, of which the quarry is one. The amendment would classify the storing or importing of any soil or fill as a conditional use in the sub-districts. 

As a conditional use designation, the matter would require a community process, O'Malley explained in an email to his supporters prior to the hearing. That process would include a transportation mitigation agreement, environmental testing of any imported soil or fill, and other input or concerns from residents and abutters. 

"Given the fact that it's a sub-district, it would trigger a lengthy process through the zoning code," O'Malley told West Roxbury Patch. "What this does would allow for a traffic management plan, environmental testing and addressing other community concerns."

In essence, O'Malley said, the zoning amendment would treat the quarry proposal in the same manner as if a resident were looking to build an addition on his or her property. 

"It's a necessary process in place to protect for bad development," he said. "I think that the quarry would automatically come under this use. We just hope that we can have a working relationship and a transparent process."

O'Malley said the Boston City Council will vote on the amendment, which, he added, has gained support of his 12 colleagues on the council. 

"We will likely pass this at the council level and work with the BRA and zoning commission," he said. "This isn't about blocking reclamation or anyone's business. This is simply giving the level of oversight you would have if you were building an addition on your home. We just want to make sure that if this is done, it's done professionally, safely and with community oversight and input."

But West Roxbury Crushed stone is taking a stance against the proposed zoning amendments. 

In a letter to the Boston Committee on Economic Development and Planning and Labor last week, AJ Lorusso III, Vice President of SM Lorusso and Sons, Inc., which owns the quarry, said the petition was filed without notice to the company.

(Editor's Note: The above paragraph has been corrected to reflect that AJ Lorusso III wrote the letter, and not Peterson as originally reported.)

"We have serious concerns that the proposed zoning amendment is overboard and fails to establish any meaningful or measurable standards," Lorusso wrote in the letter. "Input from owners of all properties located within the designated conversation sub-districs must be sought, as well as open input form West Roxbury residents, business owners and the Boston development community."

In the letter, Lorusso emphasized that the plant plans to bring in and reuse only soils with constituents below RCS-1 levels as set form in the state's contingency plan. Below is an excerpt from the letter on the matter of the soils:

"The constituents in soil proposed for re-use are either naturally occurring or are at such low levels that the Department of Environmental Protection regulations do not even require notification so long as the soils are brought in consistent with an appropriately prepared soils management plan. Lorusso’s quarry reclamation is a necessary component of phasing out its quarry operation. Soil re-use for reclamation is not a change of use, nor a substantial extension of the quarry operations. Soil re-use for reclamation is neither different in quality nor character. It is entirely consistent with and part of the current and historic quarry operations."  

He added that the company was concerned that the proposed amendment "represents an attempt to unlawfully condition through a zoning change a use that the Massachusetts Superior Court has already determined is protected."

Following last week's hearing and the proposed zoning amendment, as well as Monday's meeting, Peterson said things are at a bit of a standstill at the moment with the project. 

"The bottom line is I don't feel like we've moved forward at all," she said Tuesday. "We still believe we have the right to bring in below RCS-1 material. We have not brought in the material, and that's where we stand right now. But we we really want to see this process move forward."

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