Quarry legal … or not

MOUNT DESERT — Almost exactly a year ago, the Planning Board opened its public hearing on an application by Harold MacQuinn Inc. for a license to operate a granite quarry in the village of Hall Quarry.

That hearing has yet to be concluded; the next session is scheduled for Jan. 26.

Meanwhile, Freshwater Stone, which leases the quarry from MacQuinn, has resumed quarrying, and Kim Keene, the town’s code enforcement officer, has declined to order it to stop.

That has led to a couple of questions being raised: Can Freshwater legally work the quarry before the planning board has decided whether to grant a license? And if so, why is a license even needed?

Keene last week referred those questions to the board’s attorney, James Collier, who declined to speak on the record. But a review of recent email exchanges among parties involved sheds some light.

Hall Quarry resident Janet Clifford on Dec. 1 asked Keene if Freshwater’s quarrying operations are “in violation of the quarrying license ordinance and therefore require an enforcement action.”

Keene responded by email on Dec. 3: “After consulting with the town attorneys, I have concluded that the quarrying operations are not in violation … and therefore do not require an enforcement action. If and when there is a matter that I feel as code enforcement officer requires enforcement, I will undertake that action.”

A number of Hall Quarry residents oppose the granting of a license and the resumption of quarrying. Two couples, Gerald and Laurie Shencavitz and Peter and Judy Aylen, have hired attorney Dan Pileggi to represent them before the Planning Board.

On Dec. 2, Laurie Shencavitz sent an email to Pileggi and Keene regarding Freshwater and its president, Jeff Gammelin: “Gammelin’s crew are using jack hammers now. Is this allowed?”

She send another email to Pileggi on Dec. 16: “Gammelin’s men are using jack hammers as I write.”

On Dec. 24, Pileggi said in an email to Keene, “I disagree with the town’s position that unlicensed quarrying is somehow a lawful nonconforming property use, as the quarry licensing ordinance clearly prohibits all unlicensed quarrying. … The regulations’ plain language prohibits ALL unlicensed granite extraction.”

Pileggi told Keene that under her interpretation, “If the applicant’s license is denied, it will still be able to extract granite in some areas of the property without any conditions – a conclusion that is, frankly, insupportable under any interpretation of the town’s ordinance structure.”

Collier, the board’s attorney, said in a Dec. 28 response to Pileggi that he objected to Pileggi’s assertion that the town’s “position” is that unlicensed quarrying is lawful.

“As you know, any position taken by the town – and by that I assume that you mean by the CEO – will be plainly stated and made known to the [quarry] operator and to the landowner. As most records of the actions of the CEO are public, you will know soon enough what that position is.

Attorney Ed Bearor, who represents MacQuinn and Freshwater, was included in the email exchange between Collier and Pileggi. Shortly after Collier responded to Pileggi’s question about the legality of quarrying without a license, Bearor weighed in. He told Collier that the quarrying license ordinance, adopted by voters in 2013, requires only that MacQuinn apply for a license.

Referring to the two couples Pileggi represents, Bearor wrote, “All the sound, fury and righteous indignation of Dan’s clients and those taking up their cudgel against the town and/or MacQuinn lack a supportable basis in both fact and law.”

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]

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