LAMOINE, Maine — Four contractors are suing the town of Lamoine over new gravel extraction rules recently approved by voters that they describe as “onerous.”
The plaintiffs — John W. Goodwin, Timothy H. Gott, Patrick Jordan and Paul McQuinn — all run contracting companies that own property in Lamoine, according to a prepared statement by the contractors released Tuesday by the Bangor law firm Rudman & Winchell. They have filed a complaint in Hancock County Superior Court that seeks, in part, to overturn a new gravel extraction ordinance that local voters adopted last month during Lamoine’s annual town meeting.
Ellsworth land surveyor Stephen Salsbury, who routinely works with the plaintiffs, indicates in the statement that the new ordinance effectively prohibits gravel extraction on small plots of land. A setback of 100 feet, he said, “would eliminate any footprint available to work” on a rectangular four-acre lot.
Stu Marckoon, a town official, declined on Wednesday to comment about the lawsuit, saying that the town has not received any official notification about it. He said he is not sure which attorney the town might hire to represent it in the expected legal proceedings.
According to Salsbury, 50-foot setbacks no longer are allowed. The new ordinance also does not allow two abutting owners to agree to a line agreement reducing the setback, he added, or allow existing extraction operations to be grandfathered. Owners of old camps built in shorefront setback zones are allowed to continue using them, he pointed out.
“The gravel pit owners and plaintiffs are asking for the same type of allowance and fair treatment and assert their constitutional rights,” the statement indicates.
Carol Korty, a local resident who has been a vocal supporter of the new ordinance, said Wednesday that she is not surprised by the lawsuit. She said the issue is one of scale, not about whether any gravel mining should be allowed in Lamoine.
She said large local gravel pits, such as a 100-plus-acre pit proposed by Harold MacQuinn, Inc., are having an adverse effect on the town, more so than grandfathered shorefront cabins. She said there are concerns about how large-scale gravel mining is affecting a local aquifer and about what kind of landscape is left behind by gravel extraction activities.
“We’re very cautious about this,” Korty said. “This is a completely different scale. It’s just too much for this small community.”
Gravel extraction has been a mainstay in Lamoine for many years, but it came under increased focus this past winter after Harold MacQuinn, Inc. sought municipal approval to create and mine gravel from a 110-acre pit off Route 184.
At a public hearing on the proposal in January, many residents said increasing gravel extraction in Lamoine could harm local underground water supplies and adversely affect the local quality of life. MacQuinn supporters said permitted gravel mining in Lamoine is key to the town’s economy and should not be discouraged.