2014-11-14 / Front Page

Grist mill decision pushed to Nov. 19

Residents continued to voice opposition during recent planning board meeting
By Alex Acquisto
Staff Writer

KENNEBUNKPORT – Resident opposition of a proposed replica of the Perkins Grist Mill continues to pervade at meetings.

The planning board held its second public hearing on the issue Wednesday, Nov. 5. Due to the high number of residents who spoke on the matter, the board decided to push its reserved time for its decision-making and deliberation process to the next meeting, Wednesday, Nov. 19.

Since the board’s last meeting two weeks ago, the sewer department and Police Chief Craig Sanford have both sent letters “saying that they were OK” with the project, said Chairman David Cling.

No one who spoke Wednesday supported the project. Most who did speak were abutters.

Questions and concerns about the potential noise level was the focus of the meeting by residents.

Durward Parkinson, the attorney representing the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust, reiterated that the mill would only operate a few times a week during the day, during visits from students.

A buffer of evergreen trees “6 to 7feet high” would be installed as a sound barrier for North Street residents, said Steve Doe of Sebago Technics.

Peter Warren, a resident of North Street who opposes the project, explained to the board the difference between lowfrequency and high-frequency sound. Because the grist mill is intended to be an exact replica of the original 19thcentury mill, it will invariably be less energy efficient than a modern mill, Warren said. A “modern, efficient” mill operates at between 83 and 85 decibels, Warren said. “The more efficient you are, the less noise you generate for the watt of power you consume ... at 83 decibels, Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommends that you have hearing protection.”

A historic mill of the magnitude being proposed by the trust, Warren said, is a “much older design and much less efficient.” The wasted power or power overflow in an inefficient machine, much like in an old car, is transferred to increased heat and noise, Warren said, which would put an aged mill of this caliber at approximately 90 to 95 decibels. In other words, the more energy that is wasted, the louder the mechanism becomes.

Because the noise level would be lowfrequency, it would travel farther, like a clap of thunder. “Basically, there’s very little you can do about lowfrequency sound abatement,” Warren said. “Whether it’s an industrial use or a educational use, an 18th-century construction grist mill is a loud thing.”

Warren played videos of a comparably-sized mill for the audience and the board, the sound of which was invasively loud.

Ralph Austin, a second attorney representing the trust for the grist mill project, accused Warren of failing to contextualize his footage.

“We don’t know the settings, we have no idea where the microphones were placed for those videos, we don’t know what sound levels the microphones were set at, or if the stones or gears were out of balance or not maintained, in which case they would be noisy,” Austin said.

Austin, along with Doug Butler, a civil engineer acting as volunteer project manager for the trust, assured the board that the facility would be required to adhere to the land use ordinance of 60 dBA (decibels) during operating hours. And the walls of the proposed structure will filter 39 dBA.

“If we think that the mill inside the building is producing 75 dBA, and then we factor in the fact that the exterior wall is going to filter out 39 of that dBA, you get down to a noise level on the outside of about 36 dBA,” Butler told the board.

The trust has also corroborated those figures with millers and their facilities around the world, although Austin did admit that they did not speak to abutters of those respective properties.

“There is a sound level that we cannot exceed at the property line (60 decibels). We’re certain we will not exceed that,” Austin said.

Said Warren, “Merely putting something inside a building does not make the sound go away ... there’s a difference between facts and promises.”

“With a politician, if you don’t like what they do with their promises, you can vote them out of office next time.

“In this case, this is a fairly large-scale development of a natural park and there’s no way for you to change your vote, there’s no reelection campaign that’s going to happen. If the promises don’t become fact, we’re stuck with this for a very long time,” said Warren.

As the public hearing concluded, Leia Lowery, director of education at the trust and proponent of the project, addressed the audience.

“All of this land that you are trying to protect” she said. “All of this land that you are loving so much, if we don’t give that and instill that into (our) children, they’re not going to protect it, it’s not going to be here.

“You can roll your eyes to that and you can laugh, but the reality to this is that kids just aren’t outside anymore. They’re not. They’re plugged in inside, their parents are scared to let them outside. We’re providing them a safe opportunity for them to have educational opportunities outside, to get attached to this land, to give to the community, to connect to the generations and to give them a home that they’re proud of and that they feel a part of.

“This is part of the future of this conservation trust and, frankly, it’s a part of the future for this community.”

The next planning board meeting regarding this project proposal is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 19 at the Village Fire Station.

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