SOMERSET — Fearing future local development could mirror problems tied to recent work at Brayton Point, a group of residents is trying to convince the town to prohibit new businesses handling scrap metal, discarded building material and unregistered cars.
Fourteen residents are petitioning the town to include four zoning bylaw amendments and a noise nuiscance bylaw on the warrant for the May town meeting. Allen Smith, one of the residents who organized the effort, said Tuesday that the proposed zoning changes were largely motivated by recent work at Brayton Point Commerce Center.
“We initially heard a great story about how Brayton Point would be in support of wind energy, and no one was concerned then about it being used for metal and salt storage that operates 24 hours a day,” Smith said.
The commerce center, former site of the coal-fired Brayton Point Power Station, has been at the center of public unrest over the last year after two businesses began operations there.
Commercial Development Company, the property’s owner, said last year that the site would serve as a conduit facility between off-shore wind farms and the mainland power grid. Though CDC officials indicated at the time that the property would likely host other tenant businesses, it attracted public opposition when Eastern Metal Recycling and Allied Salt started work on Brayton Point prior to any local approval or review processes.
Since then, Brayton Point neighbors have regularly attended the meetings of Somerset’s various municipal boards to outline issues including noise complaints, traffic hazards and dust from the commerce center drifting into their neighborhoods.
“We really need to develop these places in a way that is conducive to the neighborhoods and give people living in the area a good quality of life,” said Lorne Lawless, one of the petition’s resident authors.
The proposed bylaws are not expected to affect ongoing activities on Brayton Point, but Smith said they would prevent similar issues from happening at other Somerset properties. He and Lawless singled out the defunct Montaup Power Plant on Riverside Avenue as one property some residents are watching carefully.
“This is another industrial site in town. One that has sat vacant for a good, long time,” said Smith. “I think residents need to be concerned and smart about making sure we have good development going on in Somerset.”
If approved, the proposed bylaws would each impact one of three different industries.
The processing of scrap metal by shredding or crushing would be prohibited in all of Somerset’s zoning districts, as well as the storage and processing of scrap metal for recycling. Smith noted that one exception to scrap metal recycling would be any activity that falls under the town’s mandatory recycling bylaw.
Similarly, the processing of rock, scrap concrete or scrap asphalt would also be prohibited in all local zoning districts.
Another planned restriction would prevent anyone in Somerset from keeping more than two used vehicles on their property at a time, except for persons licensed for on-premises sales of undamaged vehicles. The petition specifies that the bylaw would apply to “the keeping of more than two used, damaged or undamaged, operable or inoperable, automobiles, trucks, other vehicles, trailers, construction and farm equipment, and machinery.”
According to Smith, more than two vehicles could still be stored on a property as long as they were registered. The recently withdrawn plan of Copart, a Texas-based auto auction company, to build a vehicle storage site in Fall River made residents want to create a new regulation for vehicle-related businesses, Smith said.
The nuisance noise bylaw backed by petitioners would set decibel level restrictions for commercial activities in Somerset, and set specific days and times when noise must be below set decibel levels.
If the petition makes it onto the agenda for the May 18 town meeting, Lawless said he believes it would find support among voters.
“It’s going to be up to the town whether they want this or not,” he said. “When it’s explained at town meeting, I think people overall will be supportive of it because it’s best for their health and the environment.”