MOUNT DESERT — The public will have a chance to comment at a special Planning Board hearing May 11 on whether the operation of a quarry owned by Harold MacQuinn Inc. in the village of Hall Quarry is a “grandfathered use” and, as such, is eligible to be licensed by the town.
MacQuinn and its lessee, Freshwater Stone, applied for a quarrying license more than three years ago.
In September 2014, the Planning Board ruled that the quarry qualified for grandfathered status under the land use zoning ordinance because, according to MacQuinn, quarrying had occurred for many years without a break of more than 12 months.
The attorney for two neighboring property owners cited MacQuinn’s sales records in arguing that the company had not met the requirements for grandfathering.
In the absence of definitive evidence either way, Planning Board member Dennis Kiley asked, “Is it our role to prove that they absolutely were [quarrying continuously] or to give them the benefit of the doubt?”
“I’m thinking we give them the benefit of the doubt,” board member Lili Andrews said, and Dave Ashmore and Chairman Bill Hanley agreed.
Those three board members voted to find that MacQuinn could apply for a quarrying license. Kiley and Meredith Randolph abstained, saying there was not enough clear evidence on which to base a decision.
Ever since that vote, opponents of the quarrying operation have complained that there should have been a public hearing on the grandfathering issue. The board subsequently promised that the public would be given a chance to weigh in.
The Planning Board has held a number of meetings to review material presented by both sides and to hear public comment on specific aspects of the application, the most contentious of which is the noise generated by stone cutting and other quarrying activities.
At the most recent of those meetings, last October, the Planning Board and representatives of the two sides agreed that the town would hire an independent acoustical expert and that MacQuinn would pay the cost. The two sides agreed in November that the town should engage Acentech of Cambridge, Mass., the country’s oldest acoustical consulting firm.
But last month, representatives of the applicant told Hanley, the Planning Board chairman, that they would like the grandfathering question to be dealt with first.
On March 27, Hanley sent an email to the other board members in which he said, “If the applicant wishes to present the public with that opportunity [to address grandfathering] now, then so be it and let’s please schedule a hearing.”
On March 30, Steve Salsbury of Herrick & Salsbury, a land surveying company working with MacQuinn, confirmed in an email to Mount Desert Code Enforcement Officer Kim Keene that his client would prefer “to readdress the grandfathering issue prior to spending the money for the Acentech review … .”
That same day, Dan Pileggi, the attorney representing two neighboring property owners, objected to the change in plans in an email to Keene.
Pileggi requested that the board “set and adhere to its agenda, on its terms, and move this matter toward a conclusion.”
The official notice of the May 11 public hearing states that the purpose is “to hear evidence, including public comment, on the issue of whether the use is ‘grandfathered,’ i.e. a lawfully pre-existing nonconforming use.”
However, Hanley said of the hearing, “It’s technically not all about the grandfathering issue.
“The board has already rendered a decision on the grandfathering issue,” Hanley said, referring to the 2014 vote. “But … the board agreed to grant [the public] the opportunity to comment on anything.”