Quarry permit attorney raises ‘red herring’ flag

MOUNT DESERT — Whether Harold MacQuinn Inc. needs a state permit in addition to a town license for its granite quarry in Hall Quarry is one of many points of contention between the company and Hall Quarry residents who oppose the resumption of operations.

Dan Pileggi, attorney for the opponents, told the planning board last week at the start of the public hearing on MacQuinn’s license application that a permit from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is required.

MacQuinn’s attorney, Ed Bearor, maintained that it isn’t. He said that even if a DEP permit were needed, the town’s ordinance does not require that it be obtained prior to the town issuing a license to quarry.

The planning board’s attorney, James Collier, agreed with Bearor, saying Pileggi’s argument seemed to be “a bit of a red herring.”

“My understanding is that (MacQuinn) is not subject to the DEP stuff Mr. Pileggi wants to talk about.”

Pileggi took issue with that.

“I pride myself on being fairly calm, but I take exception when I get told one of my arguments is a red herring,” he said.

Pileggi said the DEP license requirements don’t apply to quarries less than one acre in size, and that there is an exemption for quarries that existed prior to 1970.

“But once there is a substantial change in plans, the exemption no longer applies,” he said, noting that the long-range plan for the quarry has changed significantly and now covers six acres. “It’s not a red herring,” he said of the DEP permit requirement. “It’s the law.”

But Stephen Salsbury, the land surveyor that MacQuinn hired to work on the quarry application, maintained that the quarry still qualifies for the DEP permit exemption.

“Right now, we’re operating within a 1.1-acre grandfathered window,” Salsbury said. “My contention is that as long as we stay within that acre footprint, we’re not subject to (DEP) regulations. When it comes time to get a permit, we will, but that’s going to be many years down the road.”

The planning board agreed to table the matter of a DEP permit until Bearor gets an “advisory opinion” from the DEP as to whether a permit is needed.

But that left a number of other issues for the two sides to squabble over. One of the most contentious is noise, with neighbors claiming that quarrying is incompatible with a largely residential area.

A sound expert hired by Salsbury for the quarry project was not present at last week’s public hearing. But Bearor said he would be available to testify at a later date.

Salsbury said in his written report to the planning board that the sound expert has concluded that “noise reduction measures are unnecessary” at the quarry.

But Salsbury said Freshwater Stone, the operator of the MacQuinn quarry, is “sensitive to the concerns of the neighbors” and will make efforts to muffle the noise. That includes building a five- or six-foot high earthen berm along the north edge of the quarry to deflect noise up and away from nearby homes.

In addition, Salsbury said, “hay bales or temporary panels will be placed around the rock drill when at all possible when working at or near the top of the quarry.”

Pileggi contends those measures are inadequate.

“The application fails to present any peer-reviewed, industry-accepted noise monitoring, measuring or control measures,” he wrote in a memo to the planning board. “Proposed noise levels are still near or exceed the ear-splitting sound levels of large jet engines and rifle blasts.”

Pileggi said at the public hearing, “The applicant has the burden of proof to show, with science, what the noise impact is going to be.”

“I would like to echo the appeal for science,” said Hall Quarry resident Janet Clifford. “We especially need something more than hearing about hay bales and a five-foot berm making the sound go up instead of horizontal. They’ve got to have the data, the observations and the conclusions before they can say that hay bales are going to solve this problem.”

Hall Quarry resident Seth Singleton said at the public hearing that the quarry’s costs to the neighbors and the town as a whole include reduced property values.

“It’s already taken hundreds of thousands of dollars of tax value away from the abutters, and therefore, from the town revenues,” he said. “It will inhibit further construction. It will inhibit real estate sales.”

The planning board has not yet scheduled a continuation of the public hearing on the quarry license application. Code Enforcement Officer Kim Keene said Monday that it could be sometime in March before the board members and the attorneys involved have an open date.

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]
Dick Broom

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