Neighbor confrontation leads to new quarry visit

MOUNT DESERT — Jeff Gammelin, owner of Freshwater Stone, says he was justified in ordering neighbor Laurie Shencavitz, to get off the Hall Quarry property at the start of a Nov. 18 planning board visit to the site.

But the action, which Shencavitz calls “outrageous,” has prompted the planning board to schedule another visit so that Shencavitz and her husband can attend.

For nearly a year, the planning board has been holding public hearings to consider an application by Harold MacQuinn Inc., which leases the quarry to Freshwater Stone, for a license to resume quarrying. The board visited the site last winter, but decided earlier this fall that they needed to see it again to better understand the applicant’s revised plans for stormwater management and erosion control.

According to the chapter on “site visits” in the “Planning Board Manual” published by the Maine Municipal Association, “If a majority of the board is going to visit the site of a proposed project … the public has a right to be present under the [Maine] Freedom of Access Act.”

Mount Desert Code Enforcement Officer Kim Keene said Paul MacQuinn, president of Harold MacQuinn Inc., voluntarily allowed the site visits.

About two dozen people went along for the Nov. 18 site visit, including several Hall Quarry residents who oppose the resumption of quarrying. However, Shencavitz was the only one Gammelin ordered off the property. He said it was because she is a “convicted trespasser.”

One day in the spring of 2014, a security camera captured images of Shencavitz and her husband, Gerald, walking their dog on the quarry property. Gammelin called the police, who summonsed the Shencavitzes. The couple pleaded guilty but later changed that plea to not guilty. The charges were later dismissed in court.

Months earlier, the Shencavitzes and their neighbors, Peter and Judy Aylen, hired attorney Dan Pileggi to represent them in opposing the application.

Laurie Shencavitz said Gammelin was “livid” when he approached her at the start of the planning board’s site visit.

“This was a public meeting; I explained that to him,” she said. “And he said, ‘You are trespassing. I will call the police.’”

Gammelin acknowledges telling Shencavitz he would call the police, but insists that his manner was not aggressive.

“I was very polite,” he said. “I got a letter from her attorney saying that I exhibited loutish behavior and that I threatened her. I didn’t threaten her. Her presence on my property is a threat to me. She’s already cost me a lot of money and a lot of time.”

Gammelin explained that, although Shencavitz is not a threat to him personally, she represents “a huge threat” to his business.

“I feel like I had a right to tell her to leave,” he said.

Shencavitz said that immediately after leaving the quarry, she called her husband and told him not to come.

The planning board resumed its public hearing on the quarrying license application Tuesday night. At the meeting, Pileggi, the Shencavitzes’ attorney, strongly objected to Gammelin’s action, saying it denied his clients’ their legal right to participate in a public proceeding.

“That can’t be fixed; there is no remedy for that,” Pileggi said. He asked the board to conduct another site visit at which his clients would be allowed to be present and participate.

Ed Bearor, the attorney representing MacQuinn and Freshwater Stone, acknowledged that what Gammelin did was “not necessarily appropriate.”

But he argued that because the planning board didn’t cause the problem, it didn’t need to fix it.

James Collier, the planning board’s attorney, agreed with Bearor.

“The board hasn’t done anything wrong. Nobody knew about it. So, the board has conducted itself, as far as we know, with purity.”

Pileggi agreed up to a point.

“You didn’t deny the Shencavitzes access at the site visit,” he told the board. “You’re denying it tonight if you don’t conduct another site visit.”

The board ultimately voted 5-0 to have another site visit and scheduled it for today (Thursday) at 2 p.m.

During the discussion of Gammelin’s action at the previous site visit, Bearor questioned why Laurie Shencavitz didn’t tell someone at the time that she had been ordered to leave. She responded that she was upset because “he was chasing me off the property.”

“That’s insane,” Gammelin replied.

He told the planning board, “I don’t feel that I did anything wrong. If I had to do it again, I would do the same thing.”


Editor’s Note: This story was edited on 12/3/15 to more accurately reflect what happened when the Shencavitzes were charged with trespassing.

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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