MOUNT DESERT, Maine — In response to concerns raised by Hall Quarry residents about a stone-quarrying operation there, selectmen have decided to put a proposed moratorium on such activities on the November ballot.
The proposal, if approved by voters on Nov. 6, would impose a moratorium on the approval of all mineral extraction permit applications submitted to the town for 180 days.
Durlin Lunt, Mount Desert’s town manager, said Friday that the proposed moratorium could be renewed for another 180 days if selectmen decide more time is needed to study the issue.
The operation of quarries and similar sites in Mount Desert came under scrutiny earlier this year after residents in the local village of Hall Quarry complained to town officials about noise being generated by a stone cutting operation in their neighborhood. The residents said the cutting, which has been performed by Freshwater Stone on land owned by Harold MacQuinn Inc., involves the use of a stone-cutting saw that extracts stone out of bedrock. The machine runs for hours at a time and makes a deafening din that many residents have said makes it difficult to enjoy the peace and quiet of their homes.
The stone cutting equipment has been used seasonally at the site since the spring of 2010. The companies involved did not get a permit from the town before operations began, but attorneys representing Harold MacQuinn Inc., and Freshwater Stone said they believed the operation is grandfathered because such activity has been consistently occurring at the site for at least the past couple of decades.
The companies ceased operations this summer while they tried to sort through the permit issue and were told by the town in July that they have to obtain a mineral extraction permit before they can resume removing stone in Hall Quarry. The companies have since filed a permit application with the town and are in the process of trying to get it approved.
According to Lunt, residents had been trying to collect enough petition signatures to put a quarrying moratorium out to a town-wide referendum vote. Last month, however, selectmen requested the town’s attorney to draft a moratorium question for the November ballot. Selectmen have the authority to put such questions out to a local vote and, once they decided to do so in this case, the petition drive became moot, Lunt said.
If voters approve the moratorium, it would be retroactive to Aug. 6, which is when selectmen decided to put the question on the ballot. Because MacQuinn and Freshwater Stone did not submit their permit application until after that date, their operation in Hall Quarry would be subject to the moratorium if it is approved, according to officials.
Judy Aylen, who lives next to the property where the cutting has occurred, said Sunday that she supports a moratorium on mineral extraction throughout Mount Desert. She said that, for the 20 years she and her husband lived on their property before stone cutting began next door in 2010, they never heard the kind of noise at home that they’ve heard in recent years, despite the fact that the word “quarry” is part of the name of their village.
“I hope so,” Aylen said about the moratorium being approved. “It’s now a residential neighborhood.”
Follow BDN reporter Bill Trotter on Twitter at @billtrotter.