MOUNT DESERT — By a vote of 3-2, the Appeals Board last Thursday upheld the Planning Board’s decision that Harold MacQuinn Inc. was not eligible to apply for a license for its granite quarry in the village of Hall Quarry.
MacQuinn company President Paul MacQuinn could not be reached for comment on whether he plans to appeal that decision to Hancock County Superior Court.
Freshwater Stone has leased the quarry from MacQuinn and operated it since 2010.
MacQuinn applied for a quarrying license after voters at a special town meeting in July 2013 adopted ordinances banning new quarries and requiring any existing quarry operations to be licensed by the town. MacQuinn’s was the only remaining active quarry in Mount Desert, and the ordinance was understood to have been written specifically to allow it to continue.
However, a requirement for licensing was that an existing quarry must be eligible for grandfathering under the land use zoning ordinance (LUZO). That meant active quarrying must have continued without a break of more than 18 months prior to 2009 or 12 months since then.
In September 2014, the Planning Board ruled that the MacQuinn quarry met that standard. But neighboring homeowners cited MacQuinn’s sales records in arguing that the company had not met that requirement for grandfathering.
This past June, after more than two years of sporadic hearings, the Planning Board reversed its original decision on the quarry’s grandfathered status. By a vote of 4-1, the board found that at various times over the years, the quarry had been dormant for too long to qualify for grandfathering and, because of that, MacQuinn was not eligible to apply for a license.
MacQuinn appealed that decision. When the Appeals Board met Oct. 12 to consider the appeal, a motion to find that the Planning Board had not erred in its ruling against MacQuinn was defeated 2-3. Board members Jerry Suminsby, Kevin Walls and Julie Reddish voted in the majority.
But a subsequent motion to find that the Planning Board had ruled incorrectly also failed 2-3, with Reddish voting with board Chairman Bill Ferm and Jim Bright.
Given that stalemate, the Appeals Board decided to suspend the meeting. The board reconvened Oct. 26, and after nearly two more hours of debate, voted 3-2 to uphold the Planning Board’s decision to reject MacQuinn’s license application. Ferm, Bright and Reddish voted in the majority.
Those three decided that the Planning Board was justified in considering both the quarrying ordinance and the LUZO, with its grandfathering requirements.
Bright said the quarrying ordinance only governs “how to run a quarry” once the quarry is deemed legal. And he concluded, “I don’t feel [the MacQuinn quarry] was grandfathered, plain and simple.”
But Suminsby and Walls maintained throughout the appeal deliberations that the Planning Board should have been guided only by the quarrying ordinance, which doesn’t address the question of grandfathering.
In 2013, just prior to the town meeting vote in favor of the quarrying license ordinance, Tom Richardson, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, urged residents to support it. He said the restrictions on quarrying in the LUZO were seriously inadequate.
“This is the first attempt to try to undo the vagueness, if you will, in dealing with quarrying,” he said.
Apparently, given how much the Planning Board and Appeals Board struggled to interpret and apply the ordinances, the vagueness remains.
Planning Board faulted
Some members of the Appeals Board criticized the multiyear process that the Planning Board went through in considering the MacQuinn application before deciding that MacQuinn was not eligible to apply.
“I don’t believe they were guided very correctly in the beginning,” Bright said. “They could have eliminated a lot of this if they had held a public hearing to determine whether they were grandfathered or not. They never did it until the very end.”
Ferm said, “With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight … that process in a sense was unfair to both sides. It was unfair to the applicant because of all the effort and everything that was expended. And it was unfair to those opposing the applicant because they didn’t have an opportunity to voice a lot of their concerns.”