More than seven years have passed since Harold MacQuinn Inc. applied for a license to resume quarrying operations in Hall Quarry. This photo from 2015 shows a visit to the quarry made by members of the Planning Board and others associated with the project. ISLANDER PHOTO BY DICK BROOM

Quarry license to be denied

MOUNT DESERT — More than seven years after Harold MacQuinn Inc. applied for a license to resume quarrying operations in the village of Hall Quarry, the Planning Board last Wednesday passed two motions stating why the application should be denied. 

But they postponed a final vote until their Feb. 9 meeting. 

The quarry has been operated in the past by Freshwater Stone, which leases it from MacQuinn. 

Neighbors of the quarry site and other Hall Quarry residents have strongly opposed the resumption of quarrying. From the outset, they primarily objected to the noise generated by the cutting and removal of stone, which they said had significantly diminished their quality of life and their property values. 

But in the end, it wasn’t the noise issue that proved decisive. Rather, it was an easement for a road over a portion of a neighbor’s property that the board deemed insufficiently binding. 

The board had voted at its Oct. 20 meeting that MacQuinn must bring the dirt road leading to the quarry up to the town’s standards for private roads that serve two or more lots. That meant paving the road and widening the right-of-way to 50 feet.  

To do that, MacQuinn needed to obtain easements from two adjacent property owners, James “Rick” Mooers and Michael Musetti. Both of them agreed, but the agreement that Musetti signed stated, “Except for an emergency, the grantee [MacQuinn] shall not undertake any construction or maintenance on the easement area without prior consent of the grantor [Musetti], such consent not to be unreasonably withheld.” 

The Planning Board’s attorney, James Collier, said, “I think it’s outrageous to expect the owner of the quarry, with trucks coming and going and all that’s going on, to have to go to Mr. Musetti every time for his permission.” 

“And that road is going to take a beating,” Planning Board Chair Bill Hanley added. 

Board member Dave Ashmore said, “I have a lot of experience in easements and rights of way; I’ve done it for 35 years. I feel that [the easement that Musetti granted to MacQuinn] is just not sufficient.” 

All of the other board members agreed. By a vote of 5-0, they passed the following motion, whose wording was suggested by Collier: “The Quarrying Licensing Ordinance requires that the owner and operator ensure the maintenance of all infrastructure…As it is impractical to obtain Mr. Musetti’s approval to repair and maintain the road, the applicant has not shown sufficient evidence of title right or interest.” 

The second motion, which also passed 5-0, stated that the applicant has a duty under the quarrying licensing ordinance to maintain the road, “But the applicant cannot fulfill that duty because of the limitations of the aforementioned easement.” 

Collier suggested to the board that, before they vote to deny the quarrying license, they might consider whether there are any other reasons for denial they would like to cite.  

Board member Meredith Randolph said she wished the board could go back and revisit the issue of noise generated by quarrying.  

In October 2020, the board voted 3-2 to accept MacQuinn’s plans for reducing or containing the noise. The majority found that the plans meet both industry standards and the requirements of the town’s quarrying ordinance. 

But Randolph said that doesn’t mean the quarry won’t generate an unacceptable amount of noise. 

“The purpose of the quarry ordinance is to preserve the town’s natural resources, property values and the future ability (of the natural resources) to be assets to the town and it residents,” she said. “Going step by step through the ordinance, I don’t feel it has enabled us, particularly on the issue of sound, to offer any level of protection to the residents or the town, and that’s what our responsibility is.” 

Board member Christie Anastasia said she had always thought that, before making a final decision, the board would look at the entire application as a whole “and not just piece by piece by piece and consider it done.” 

“The application has a totality to it that is greater than any one piece.” 

Ashmore reminded the rest of the board that “a long time ago” Collier had told them they could “go back and review any section that we ruled on, and I want to go back and review the noise section specifically.” 

Collier said, “I think that’s not a good idea.” 

And Code Enforcement Officer Kim Keene pointed out that two board members who voted on various ordinance standards, including the noise standards, are no longer on the board, so it would be difficult to go back and revisit that issue. 

Collier told the board, “My advice to you is to make your motion to deny the whole thing, do it right now and get it over with and let this go off to the [town’s] Board of Appeals.” 

But several board members indicated they felt a little more thought and discussion was warranted. 

“With every single section [of the license application], I think we’ve been incredibly diligent and thorough in the review of those sections,” Hanley said. “I would hope that any kind of final decision on this application has that kind of thoroughness.” 

The board voted to continue their deliberations on Feb. 9, in part to decide whether there are any other reasons they should cite for denying the quarrying license. That meeting will not be a public hearing and the attorneys for the two sides will not be allowed to speak. 

“This has got to be a condensed, final and I would hope expedited and quick process, but yet thorough,” Hanley said. “We will aim to make a final decision then.” 

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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