MOUNT DESERT — The town will hire an acoustical consulting firm to review the plan by Harold MacQuinn, Inc. and Freshwater Stone to muffle noise at MacQuinn’s granite quarry in the village of Hall Quarry.
The two companies have applied for a license for Freshwater to operate the one-acre quarry. Their attorney, Ed Bearor, told the Planning Board last Thursday that they would agree to pay up to $2,500 for the expert review.
The board voted unanimously to have their attorney, James Collier, hire Cavanaugh Tocci Associates, an acoustical consulting firm in Sudbury, Mass., to provide an opinion on whether Freshwater’s plan meets the ordinance requirement to use the “best practicable means” of noise suppression.
At their most recent previous meeting, on Nov. 20. board members voted to have Collier ask independent sound experts to quote a price for doing that work. He received quotes from two firms, including Cavanaugh Tocci, but then Nicholas Miller, a retired sound expert who lives in Bar Harbor, offered to conduct the review at no cost.
Miller told the board last week, “As for the [conditions] that Freshwater Stone is agreeing to comply with, I feel that in general they are quite generous compared to what I’ve seen [with some other industrial operations].”
However, he said he had concerns about the feasibility of the large, portable sound barrier that Freshwater proposes to move along with stone-cutting equipment in the quarry.
“It may be difficult to move that big barrier to the best benefit of the (neighbors); that may be a bit of a struggle,” he said.
Another concern, he said, is the height of the earthen berm that Freshwater proposes to build around the top of the quarry to deflect sound.
“The berm is not effective,” he said. “If the houses are higher than the source of noise, a berm of that height is not going to do anything.”
After listening to Miller and asking him questions, board members and Collier, their attorney, said they still weren’t sure whether Freshwater’s plan for noise mitigation meets the requirement of the ordinance.
“I’m at a loss for words and frustrated,” Collier said.
Board chairman Bill Hanley also expressed frustration.
Board member Meredith Randolph wondered aloud whether the board was making its work more difficult than it needs to be.
“I think it’s the board’s job to decide whether Freshwater has done enough [to mitigate noise],” she said. “But I feel like we keep going down the road of what else could they be doing. It’s not our job to try to figure out what else they could do.”
But Hanley said he still felt the need for expert advice on the effectiveness of Freshwater’s sound attenuation proposals, and the board voted to hire the acoustical consulting firm to provide that advice.
At the Nov. 20 board meeting, Freshwater stone officials had offered to set a limit on the level of noise from the cutting of stone that would leave the quarry.
But when asked last week if they had a voluntary decibel limit to propose, Bearor said, “We don’t have anything to offer on that.”
For several years now, attorney Dan Pileggi has represented Gerald and Laurie Shencavitz and Peter and Judy Aylen, the two couples who live nearest the quarry and oppose Freshwater’s application for a quarrying license.
Shencavitz said last week that more than two dozen other Hall Quarry residents who oppose the resumption of quarrying have retained Augusta attorney Roger Katz to represent them. Both Pileggi and Katz were at the planning board meeting.