Discussion fails to resolve Bangor quarry dispute

Posted June 28, 2012, at 9:12 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — An informal session at City Hall that brought owners of a recently licensed rock quarry and residential neighbors together to address issues and discuss compromises was long on emotion and complaints but short on compromises.

Not a single compromise was mined at the hour-long session, which was scheduled and moderated by Bangor City Councilor James Gallant. Councilors Geoffrey Gratwick, Pat Blanchette and Charlie Longo also attended.

Seven residents whose properties are near the quarry attended, as did Union Street quarry co-owner Harvey Sprague. Notably absent from the meeting was Randy Gardner, Sprague’s Queen City Mining partner and the owner of Gardner Construction Enterprises.

Gardner was on his way to the meeting but was diverted after he received a report of a third accident involving a company truck in the last four weeks.

“It was an important meeting for me, and I was in my vehicle headed there, but then I got a call about the accident and that took precedent,” Gardner said Thursday night. “We had one of our trucks involved in a pretty severe accident on the interstate tonight. It was one of my son-in-law’s trucks.”

The accident involved minor injuries, but no one was severely hurt.

Meanwhile, neighbors voiced their concerns about declining property values, noise, and disruptions, but no one offered any possible remedies or compromises.

“One person said the only compromise he wanted was for us to go away. Well, that’s not a compromise,” said Sprague. “I didn’t really expect anything to be resolved.”

Some of the neighbors have hired an attorney and filed a civil lawsuit to have the planning board and City Council approval for the quarry — located off the intersection of Union Street and Downing Street and near Sprague’s Nursery — reversed.

“I think this was just a conversation. I don’t think there was any intention for anything to be decided, negotiated or agreed to. It’s unfortunate Mr. Gardner wasn’t here because it really did limit the conversation,” said Maria Mason, whose property abuts the quarry site on Union Street.

Gardner, who attended a previous meeting, remains optimistic that some kind of middle ground can be found and a solution mined from it.

“I still think there’s some room for compromise and hopefully something can be resolved,” he said.

Sprague isn’t so optimistic.

“No matter what you do, where you do it, or how you do it, you’re going to make some faction of people unhappy,” Sprague told the residents.

The quarry, which is supposed to occupy 5 acres on a 55-acre lot purchased late last year, will mine rocks used for landscaping and construction.

“We have no intention of operating the new quarry until the other one is depleted. That’s still three years down the road,” said Sprague.

Queen City has another 5-acre quarry on a 59-acre property located on the opposite side of Union Street.

Neighboring homeowners including Jim Stevens, who lives on Downing Street, just 200 feet from the new quarry site, where crews have been clearing trees and building an access road, say they are scared of a 20 to 30 percent drop in their home values, damage to their wells and possible foundation damage.

“I’m going to be 61 and I may want to sell my house someday,” Stevens said. “And what if something happens to my well? That’s not something I can go to Home Depot and get a replacement for.”

Blanchette made the point that overturning the quarry approval would mean the council would have to change the city’s comprehensive plan and it was unlikely that any action could be taken retroactively regarding any of Bangor’s three existing quarries.

“To be honest with you, I’m surprise Jamie [Gallant] called the meeting only because our hands are basically tied as long as there is a pending court case,” she said.

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