BANGOR, Maine — With the sudden re-emergence of a year-old debate about quarries in Bangor, the city’s Business and Economic Development Committee on Tuesday backed an up to six-month moratorium on future quarry development.
The City Council is expected to vote on the moratorium at its next meeting on April 8.
Last spring and summer, Union Street and Downing Street residents raised concerns about declining property values, noise and disruptions caused by quarries near their homes. Despite several meetings among councilors, quarry operators and residents, little was resolved.
With the arrival of spring, concerns have surfaced again as to where future quarries might be allowed and whether the city can control where they are placed.
Those questions prompted City Planner David Gould to develop an “ overlay district” concept, which would allow for future quarries in parts of the Rural Residence and Agriculture District that were outside the city’s growth boundary — the planned limit on expansion for future sewer and water utilities. The quarry zones also would be set back 500 feet from any residences in those areas. There were four proposed zones, near the city’s northern and northwestern boundaries, totaling 845 acres.
Councilor James Gallant argued that establishing zones in these areas might not have the desired effect because it’s not guaranteed that those areas would have any useful stone or sands worth extracting. By setting these boundaries without checking to see if they will ever harbor a viable quarry, “this may all be for nothing,” Gallant said.
Randy Gardner, owner of Gardner Construction Enterprises, which is a partner in Queen City Mining, said, “The overlay district as it stands would be very akin to zoning marinas without giving consideration to where there’s water.”
U.S. Geological Survey data could give the city an indication of what materials might be found under the surface at those locations, Gardner said.
“These resources are limited in quantity, quality and where they’re located,” he said.
Paul Randall, who owns a house and 3½ acres of farmland on Union Street bordering a quarry site, said he’s worried that his property will become a “white elephant that I can’t sell.”
Several residents who spoke said some sort of overlay zoning might resolve some of their quarry concerns.
Another resident said she would like to see the city better define a portion of its ordinance relating to quarries, which states that a quarry may be allowed only if it is “not seriously detrimental to the neighborhood.” The ordinance does not define what is “detrimental,” and it could mean many different things to many different people, the resident argued.
The committee asked City Solicitor Norm Heitmann to craft more descriptive language for that ordinance.
The moratorium could be lifted before the six months are up if the council comes up with a solution before then, according to Heitmann.