Fact Sheet
Variance Application for Excavations & Rock Quarries

Background

In April 1996, the Legislature created a new program for excavations of rock, borrow, topsoil, clay and silt. Regulation of these commodities is now handled through a performance-based registration system instead of through the Site Location of Development Law.

The registration system includes a variance process. It provides an opportunity to vary from the specific statutory performance standards contained in 38 MRSA § 490-D (Performance Standards for Excavations) and 38 MRSA §490-Z (Performance Standards for Quarries). This legislation states that variances may only be granted where explicitly allowed.


What types of variances are allowed?

You can request a variance for:
(1) reduced setback to a public water supply;
(2) excavation below the water table;
(3) excavating closer than 5 feet of the seasonal high water table;
(4) excavating closer than 100 feet to a public road;
(5) an externally drained pit;
(6) an area greater than 10 acres for the working pit;
(7) reclaimed side slopes steeper than 2.5H to 1V;
(8) waiver of the topsoil salvage requirement;
(9) increased ground vibrations greater than 2 inches per second;
(10) waiver of the monitoring requirements for airblast and ground vibrations.

What type of standards apply?

In order to approve a variance application, the Department must find that your activity does not: lower water quality; interfere with natural groundwater flow; adversely interfere with existing uses; adversely affect public safety; cause unreasonably erosion of soil; and will not unreasonably harm habitats or will not unreasonably cause flooding of adjacent properties.


Is there a fee for filing a variance application?

Yes. A fee is required at the time the application is filed. For each request the fees are as follows: $500 for excavating below the water table;
$500 for externally drained pits;
$125 to increase ground vibration levels;
$125 to waive the monitoring requirements for ground vibrations and airblast; and
$250 for each of the remaining types of request.

What type of information must be submitted with a variance application?

The applicant must submit specific information in support of each request showing that the variance will not adversely affect the environment and the health, safety and general welfare of the public. Included in Chapter 378 " Variance Criteria for the Excavation of Rock, Borrow, Topsoil, Clay or Silt and Performance Standards for the Storage of Petroleum Products" are specific submission requirements needed to evaluate each type of variance.


Is there a public notice requirement?

Yes. An applicant intending to file a variance application must hold a public informational meeting prior to filing that application. The intent is to inform the public about the project and to establish a dialogue with potentially concerned parties. At least 10 days prior to the public informational meeting, notice of the informational meeting must be sent by certified mail to abutters and to the municipal office of the municipality(ies) where the project is located.

In addition the applicant must provide a public notice of the application. The notice must be published in a newspaper circulated in the area where the development is located. The notice must appear in the newspaper during the week prior to the date the application is filed with the department.


When can I begin work?

The Department has 90 days to process your application after it is deemed accepted for processing. If an application is approved, a permit is issued and sent to you.