MOUNT DESERT — By a vote of 3-2, the Planning Board last Wednesday approved plans by Harold MacQuinn Inc. and Freshwater Stone to limit the amount of noise generated by the removal of granite at the one-acre quarry that MacQuinn owns in the village of Hall Quarry.
The majority of board members found that the noise attenuation plans meet both industry standards and the requirements of the town’s quarrying ordinance.
The next step is for the Planning Board to vote on MacQuinn and Freshwater’s application for a license to resume quarrying, which many of the nearby residents strongly oppose. Freshwater would operate the quarry.
Planning Board Chairman Bill Hanley said that if the board votes to grant the license, he anticipates that “a long list” of conditions will be attached to that approval. No date has been set for the board to resume its deliberations and take a final vote.
Voting to approve MacQuinn and Freshwater’s noise suppression plans last week were Hanley, Christie Anastasis and Joanne Eaton. Voting against were Dave Ashmore and Meredith Randolph.
The two companies first applied for a quarrying license in 2014, shortly after the town’s voters adopted a quarrying licensing ordinance. The applicants maintained that they were eligible to apply for a license because the use of the site for that purpose was grandfathered. Neighbors and other opponents argued that the grandfathered status had been forfeited because the quarry had not been worked for many years.
In June 2017, the Planning Board ruled in favor of the opponents. MacQuinn and Freshwater appealed that decision to the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals, which upheld the Planning Board’s ruling.
But the two companies then appealed to the Maine Business and Consumer Court, where Judge Michael Duddy ruled that the Planning Board had erred and instructed it to consider the quarrying license application. Duddy issued his ruling almost exactly two years ago.
Since then, the Planning Board has held several public hearing sessions on the license application, with the most recent ones focused exclusively on the question of noise.
It is possible that, regardless of how the board ultimately rules on the license application, the losing side will appeal.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, last week’s Planning Board meeting was held outdoors under a tent in the Village Green at the Northeast Harbor Marina.
Hanley said that, for the next meeting, the board will revert to the virtual ZOOM meeting. He said he understands that some people would like to be able to attend the meeting at which a final vote is taken in person.
“I think we’ve demonstrated our commitment to due process and accommodating everybody as best we can, and we will figure out some venue for those who don’t have access or the technological ability to join in on ZOOM,” Hanley said. “So, we’ve got to think that through. But the final hearing and vote will be through ZOOM.”