EDDINGTON, Maine — A Hampden-based earthwork contractor that wants to build a ledge quarry on Fox Hill filed a lawsuit Tuesday against Eddington, claiming that town planners and selectmen met illegally in January concerning a possible moratorium affecting the project.
Residents started a petition drive for a six-month moratorium on quarries in January that would provide town leaders time to create local rules regarding their operation.
A public hearing on the proposed 180-day quarry moratorium was scheduled Tuesday night at Eddington Elementary School, and a special town meeting on the moratorium is scheduled to take place at 6:30 p.m. April 8, again at the school.
If Hughes Bros. Inc. has its way, the moratorium vote will not take place.
“Hughes Bros. has asked the court to order that the Planning Board’s regular review of the application continue, that a vote on the moratorium not be held, and that the Town produce the records Hughes Bros. is seeking under the guidelines of the statute,” states a Tuesday afternoon press release from Bill Devoe, a lawyer who represents the Hampden earthwork contractor. The records the company seeks include any communications among town officials pertaining to its application and the moratorium.
The lawsuit was filed in Penobscot County Superior Court alleging violations of Maine’s Freedom of Access law.
Hughes’ first application, for a 10-acre quarry, was denied by the Eddington Planning Board in October, after a two-hour review.
The most recent Hughes quarry application states the project would start out as a 5-acre operation and possibly grow to 20 acres. Hughes modified the entranceway and made other adjustments to appease nearby residents in its second application, Town Manager Russell Smith has said.
A crowd arrived at the Feb. 27 public hearing held by the planning board on the proposed project, which featured an hour and 45 minutes of presentations by Hughes Bros., followed by complaints from residents about safety, noise and dust. The hearing was continued at the board’s March 27 meeting, which ran until after 11 p.m.
“We do appreciate that, at their last meeting, the Planning Board determined that the application satisfied a number of the review standards, but it is still important for the Planning Board to complete its review of our application on April 3,” project manager Janet Hughes said in the press release. “And for us, as well as the public, to have access to the more than 20 documents the Town has refused to turn over.”
At the February meeting, “it came to light that certain Planning Board members had met on January 29 with the Town’s Board of Selectmen, in what Hughes Bros. maintains was an illegal Executive Session,” the Hughes’ press release states.
At the end of the lengthy Feb. 27 meeting, planning board members endorsed a 180-day moratorium on quarries that also had to be approved by town selectmen and residents. Selectmen approved it at their next meeting.
If nothing changes, a special town meeting is planned for 6:30 p.m. April 8 at Eddington School for residents to vote on the six-month quarry moratorium.
Smith said late Tuesday afternoon that he had just received notice of the lawsuit and that it was not a surprise because Hughes’ attorneys have been requesting, “emails, minutes, and notes, anything we have pertaining to the moratorium and the application.”
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