LAMOINE, Maine — It was standing room only this past week when a crowd estimated to be more than 170 people gathered at the local elementary school gym to learn about and voice their opinions about a proposal to create a local, 100-plus acre gravel pit.
Harold MacQuinn Inc. has applied to the town for permits to remove gravel from a Route 184 property where a large cross sits on top of a hill and from an adjacent 33-acre parcel of land owned by the construction firm. If the town approves the permit application, the firm would buy a parcel owned by Ralph and Mary Miro and then mine gravel from a 110-acre site on the combined properties.
The town’s planning board met Jan. 8 at the Lamoine Consolidated School and, as part of a public hearing, listened to a review of MacQuinn’s proposal by local resident and former University of Maine professor Willem Brutsaert. After Brutsaert spoke, other residents stood to voice their opinions about the proposal.
The comments were mixed but many, if not most, urged town officials to proceed cautiously when reviewing and deliberating on MacQuinn’s application. Some said they were concerned about the effect that the pit would have on local water resources and on the amount of gravel truck traffic in the area, which many residents say already is significant.
Lamoine native Eric Hartman went further, saying the proposal should be denied.
“Lamoine has given plenty of gravel,” said Hartman. “We have given and given. Things change and it is time to move on.”
MacQuinn’s application has been determined to be complete by the local planning board, but the board has yet to begin deliberating on whether the pit as described in the submitted material would meet local standards.
The board’s next meeting is expected to be held Tuesday, Feb. 5 at the town office on Route 184. According to John Holt, chairman of the planning board, the applicant is expected on Feb. 5 to expand upon its proposal and to address some of the issues raised at the Jan. 8 meeting before the board begins to assess the proposal.
A related public information hearing on proposed revisions to the town’s gravel ordinance is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 22, at the town office. Any changes to the gravel ordinance that voters may approve will not apply to MacQuinn’s proposal, which will be subject to the town’s current standards.
Some who spoke at the Jan. 8 public hearing voiced support for MacQuinn’s proposal, saying it would help support the local economy.
Nicholas Birdsall, a former gravel truck driver, said the trucks are not to blame for the quality of local roads, which some say is poor. He said if the application meets the town’s requirements, it should be approved, regardless of whatever fears some people may have.
“You don’t really know what will happen until it happens,” Birdsall said.
Richard McMullen, a local landscaper who is contracted to plow the town’s roads in winter, said he also supports the proposal.
“I believe it will bring much needed jobs to the area,” McMullen said. “If it wasn’t for the larger gravel pits [in the area], I don’t think I would be in business. We do all rely on gravel that comes from this town.”
Follow BDN reporter Bill Trotter on Twitter at @billtrotter.