Algae-covered rocks by the ocean.
The view upriver from the location of a proposed pier on the Penobscot River. The pier would be used by  Bowden Point Properties, a Virginia-owned company, to load barges with processed granite taken from Heagan Mountain in Prospect. Credit: Courtesy of Maine Department of Environmental Protection

Voters at the Prospect annual town meeting Saturday morning will be asked if they want to approve a six-month moratorium on industrial development in the shoreland zone that could throw a cog in a proposed granite quarry and crushing operation.

The moratorium, which town selectmen last month asked to place on the town meeting warrant, comes in the wake of a major industrial proposal for Bowden Point. If it passes, the Prospect planning board will use the six month breather to look at the town’s ordinances relating to industrial uses and see if they should be amended or strengthened, according to the town lawyer.

The moratorium excludes marijuana cultivation or manufacturing and other agricultural uses.

Salmons Inc., a Virginia-based company that has bought most of Heagan Mountain in Prospect, wants to quarry granite there, crush it and ship the processed rock by barge to Virginia from a 710-foot pier jutting into the Penobscot River.

The controversial $12 million project has residents worried that the industrial development in an agricultural and residential area would affect water supply, water quality, air quality, property values and more.

Although the proposed moratorium does not single out any specific industrial development, town attorney Kristin Collins said the Salmons, Inc. project is part of what spurred it. What the moratorium would mean to the granite quarry, crushing and barging plan was not immediately clear, but it seems likely that the planning board would not look at any applications, plans or permits for elements located in or near the shoreland zone for six months.

“The general gist on all moratoria is that it’s a response to some threat of development,” she said. “I think there’s a larger look at land use and zoning in the town of Prospect not related to this project. This would be one component of it.”

Bowden Point Properties — a Maine subsidiary of Salmons Inc. — is working to move forward with the project after the Maine Department of Environmental Protection rejected its first two attempts to submit environmental permit applications, after state officials found the documents were incomplete.  

The company has resubmitted its applications for the third time, and the Maine DEP has until May 9 to accept them or kick them back to the company, according to David Madore, the deputy commissioner of the Maine DEP. Once accepted, department officials will begin a substantive review of the permit applications.

At the moment, the town of Prospect, which does not have a comprehensive plan, has little in the way of specific zoning requirements. One of the few ordinances the town has adopted is shoreland zoning, which prohibits development within 750 feet of the Penobscot River.

But that might be changing. Prospect is once again forming a comprehensive plan committee and the planning board is drafting an aquifer ordinance.

“People want to protect their water,” Jill Riley, the town clerk, said.

Officials hope the proposed moratorium will give them time to draft regulations.

The community is calling the new direction “growth management,” Riley said, which includes creating a comprehensive plan. The lack of a growth management program is the first thing mentioned in the one-page ordinance on industrial development in the shoreland zone. The second thing mentioned is that Prospect’s shoreland areas are the town’s “greatest natural asset.”

Because the town does not have a significant amount of industrial development, it consequently does not have strict regulations regarding such development, or the staff necessary to comprehensively review proposals, the ordinance said.

“Industrial development in the Shoreland Zone could have long-reaching environmental consequences including phosphorus contamination, erosion, runoff and impacts on wildlife,” it said.

However, at least one staunch opponent of the Salmons Inc. project was not certain what the moratorium would actually do.

“I find the moratorium language confusing,” John Hyk of Prospect said, adding that he was not sure if he would vote for it at the annual town meeting. “It depends, in a way, if anything comes out in the discussion. My gut tells me I should want to vote for it if it protects me and the town more.”

The annual town meeting for Prospect will be held at 9 a.m. Saturday at the town office building at 958 Bangor Road.