MOUNT DESERT — Harold MacQuinn Inc. scored a big victory Tuesday night when the planning board ruled that the company can apply for a license to continue working its granite quarry in the village of Hall Quarry.
An ordinance approved by voters last year prohibits mineral extraction, including quarrying, in all zoning districts. But “existing” quarrying activities are grandfathered.
The MacQuinn quarry is the only one in Mount Desert that has been considered to be existing. And even that has been challenged.
Neighbors have argued that the quarry is not eligible for grandfathered status because there have been long periods over the past couple of decades when stone was neither cut nor removed from the site.
From 1978 to 2009, an activity could be considered grandfathered under the land use zoning ordinance if it had occurred without a break of more than 18 months. Since 2009, the standard was 12 months.
Dan Pileggi, the attorney representing two neighboring property owners, cited MacQuinn’s own sales records in arguing that the company had not met those requirements. But MacQuinn’s attorney, Ed Bearor, said that just because old records did to specifically identify the Hall Quarry site as the origin of granite sold did not mean the stone had not come from there.
In the absence of definitive evidence either way, planning board member Dennis Kiley asked, “Is it our role to prove that they absolutely were [quarrying continuously] or to give them the benefit of the doubt?”
“I’m thinking we give them the benefit of the doubt,” board member Lili Andrews said.
Bill Hanley and Dave Ashmore agreed.
Hanley said the business of quarrying is “a process, extended over time, that’s got an ebb and flow to it. Cutting and transporting [stone] doesn’t necessarily have to occur within the same 18 month or 12 month period.”
Town attorney James Collier told board members that, whatever they decided about the grandfathered status of the MacQuinn quarry and its eligibility for a license, he believes their decision will stand.
“In order to overturn (the decision), the board of appeals or a court would have to find it’s arbitrary and capricious, totally lacking in evidence,” Collier said. “You’ve got lots of evidence, so I think you should do whatever you think is right.”
Three board members voted to find that MacQuinn could apply for a quarrying license. Kiley and Meredith Randolph said that, for them, there was not clear enough evidence on which to base a decision. Both abstained from voting.
Tuesday night’s meeting, which ran more than three hours, was a continuation of a July 23 meeting at which the planning board began hearing arguments for and against MacQuinn’s eligibility for a license. Now that that question has been settled, the planning board must meet again to determine whether MacQuinn’s application is complete. That meeting has not yet been scheduled.
Once the application is found to be complete, the board will hold a public hearing on whether a quarrying license should be granted.
MacQuinn owns the 2.1-acre quarry on a six-acre lot in Hall Quarry, but leases it to Freshwater Stone to operate.