June 20, 2018
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Neighbors, owners ponder quarry issues with Bangor councilors

Gabor Degre | BDN
Gabor Degre | BDN
James Stevens of Bangor is concerned about a rock quarry that was permitted to start operating on Union Street, where crews started cutting trees earlier this week. Stevens said that the people in the neighborhood are worried about the noise and the possible drop in property values if a quarry starts operating withing a few hundred feet of their homes.
By Andrew Neff, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — As about 45 people attending Wednesday afternoon’s meeting of the City Council business and economic committee would attest, a new rock quarry has dug up plenty of controversy.

City councilors heard from businesspeople and homeowners whose properties adjoin a new 5-acre rock quarry permitted to operate just off outer Union Street.

“I read online somewhere that quarries reduce property value 19 to 25 percent and I can’t afford that,” said Paul Randall, who owns a house and 3½ acres of land on Union Street bordering the quarry site.

Other neighboring property owners on Union Street and Downing Road told city councilors and city staff about their concerns over potential problems and damage coming from blasting, stone dust and noise.

“When we moved there, we never thought we’d be next to a place where rock was going to be blown up,” said Jim Stevens, whose property on Downing Road is about 100 feet from the quarry site.

Eight neighboring property owners addressed Councilors Ben Sprague, Nelson Durgin, Pat Blanchette and Susan Hawes, as did Randy Gardner, owner of Gardner Construction Enterprises and co-owner of the quarry with partner Harvey Sprague, president of Sprague’s Nursery and Garden Center.

“We try to be a good neighbor and we intend to be a good neighbor,” said Gardner. “That being said, this is a noisy business. It’s next to the airport where there’s already a fairly high noise level and there’s no better place in the city of Bangor for it.

“That’s not to say it’s the perfect place, but we need this product and this is a good location to get it.”

The product ranges from small rocks used for industrial purposes to concrete, stone dust and landscaping rocks.

“If that was your property, you wouldn’t want it [the quarry] either,” Union Street homeowner Sharon Cassidy told councilors and staffers.

Cassidy and her husband, John, have filed a civil lawsuit at the Penobscot Judicial Center to try to shut down quarry operations.

“We have a permit and it is a permitted use, so the court may have to decide how that goes,” said Gardner. “Aside from that, there are issues with our neighbors and we need to work them out. We want to do everything we can to make this a livable situation for them and protect our own investment.”

Sprague, who owns another 5-acre quarry on the other side of Union Street which Gardner also manages, said he sees room for compromise with neighbors and understands their concerns.

Maria Mason, another neighboring homeowner on Union Street, seemed to agree with Sprague on the potential for compromise.

Mason said if current city regulations applying to street or utility blasting — temporary work to improve infrastructure such as water or sewer lines — were applied to the quarry operations, she could see grounds for compromise.

Lt. Col. Dave Vachon of the Maine National Guard spoke of concerns he had about any effect blasting might have on the guard’s 900,000 gallons of jet fuel stored for the operation of 10 KC-135 jet refuelers.

“We would be out of business in about two days if anything happened to that fuel supply,” he said. “We will likely do our own monitoring [of the blasting].”

Councilors decided to give Jeremy Martin, Bangor’s code enforcement officer, and Art Morgan, Bangor’s civil engineer, 30 days to evaluate land use and quarry regulations before reporting back to the committee with possible recommendations.

While some neighbors expressed pessimism that anything would be done to relieve their concerns, others saw reason for optimism.

“We’re not throwing in the towel yet,” said Stevens. “I think we can do it. We need to get more involved in the legal part of this.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story requires clarification. Union Street resident Maria Mason, whose property borders the quarry, said Thursday that in indicating she saw room for compromise with Queen City Mining, she meant it only in terms of applying existing street or residential area blasting regulations -- for infrastructure work such as electrical, sewage or water lines -- to quarry blasting. She said she did not mean compromise in terms of adjusting the quarry’s operation hours.

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