Controversy leads Mount Desert voters to ban new rock quarries

Posted July 30, 2013, at 3:47 p.m.

MOUNT DESERT, Maine — Local residents have decided to tighten restrictions on quarrying and other mineral extraction operations by voting last week to prohibit any new such activities.

They also voted to require grandfathered mineral extraction operations to obtain a permit from the town and to renew those permits annually, according to Mount Desert Town Manager Durlin Lunt.

The vote tally at the July 25 special town meeting was 92 residents in favor of banning any new mineral extraction operations and 50 opposed, Lunt said Tuesday.

The vote stems from a controversy over a quarrying operation in the local village of Hall Quarry, on the western side of Somes Sound. Residents of the village say a loud stone-cutting saw first was used on a property owned by Harold MacQuinn Inc., in 2010 and continued until last spring, when area residents complained to local officials. The noise generated by the saw has been described by local residents as “ungodly,” “a cacophony,” and “terrible.”

Last year MacQuinn and Freshwater Stone, which has been running the quarrying operation, agreed to put the operation on hold while they and town officials sorted out what kind of permits might be required for quarrying at the site. Neither company had a permit but each said the operation was grandfathered because mineral extraction activities have been occurring at the site since before permits were required. The companies indicated they would be willing to obtain a permit from the town that would set standards for ongoing quarrying activity.

James and Judy Aylen, two Hall Quarry residents who have objected to the quarrying operation, said Tuesday, however, that they don’t believe the quarry in the village is grandfathered. For 20 years — until 2010, they said — they lived in Hall Quarry and never heard any extraction equipment being operated at the abutting site. They said they are happy with the outcome of the July 25 vote because it could help restore peace in their neighborhood.

“It would be wonderful, because we sat on our back deck for 20 years and never heard a peep,” Judy Aylen said.

Last fall, voters approved a 180-day moratorium on mineral extraction activities throughout Mount Desert that was set retroactively to Aug. 6. Selectmen extended the moratorium in late January for another 180 days, making it due to run out at the end of this month.

Lunt said MacQuinn and Freshwater Stone applied for a mineral extraction permit last August, but after the moratorium activation date of Aug. 6. After the moratorium expires this week, “the processing [of the companies’ joint application] can go forward,” he said.

The issue of whether the Hall Quarry operation is grandfathered is expected to be decided by the planning board during the application review process, according to Lunt.

An attempt Tuesday to contact Bangor attorney Ed Bearor, who represents MacQuinn in the matter, was unsuccessful.

According to the town manager, the only other mineral extraction operation in Mount Desert that might qualify for grandfathered status is at the John Williams Boat Co., also located in Hall Quarry.

Any operations that might be grandfathered will then have to get a cursory annual review when they renew their permit, Lunt said. More comprehensive reviews will occur every five years, he said.

“It shouldn’t be burdensome at all,” Lunt said of the annual review.

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