Quarry review sent back to square one

MOUNT DESERT — Now that the plan for a quarrying operation in Hall Quarry has been revised, the planning board decided Tuesday night to take a few steps back in its review of the quarry owner’s application for a license.

The board will consider all of the potential impacts of the quarry operation – such as noise, dust, lighting, groundwater contamination and storm water management – including those they already covered last winter.

The board’s public hearing on the application began in January. It was suspended in March after the Maine Department of Environmental Protection ruled that quarry owner Harold MacQuinn Inc. needed to file a notice of intent to comply with state environmental standards. State law requires such compliance for quarries larger than an acre.

MacQuinn subsequently filed a new license application with the town for a quarry that would be limited in size to one acre, with no external drainage of storm water.

“Our proposal now is to keep it within a one-acre footprint and keep the storm water contained within that one acre,” MacQuinn’s land use consultant, Stephen Salsbury, told the planning board Tuesday.

Two board members, David Ashmore and Meredith Randolph, initially said they thought the changes in the application were significant enough to warrant going back through the entire review process.

“I would be more comfortable if we started over completely,” Ashmore said.

A number of people who live near the quarry have voiced strong objections to the resumption of quarrying. They contend that the quarry has been dormant for so long that it is not eligible for grandfathering under the town’s land use zoning ordinance. Of particular concern is the noise generated by modern stone-cutting equipment.

The planning board ruled last September that the quarry did qualify for grandfathered status and that MacQuinn’s license application was valid. However, a number of people complained that the public had not been given a chance to weigh in on the question. The board subsequently promised that they would have that chance at the end of the application review process.

Ashmore and Randolph said Tuesday night that they thought that should happen at the beginning, not the end.

“I would like to have the public chime in on the grandfathering, which they never had a chance to do,” Ashmore said. “I would really like to just start over completely.”

But board chairman Bill Hanley said the board should not reopen the grandfathering question at this time “because we made a decision, and I think we need to stand by it and move on.”

However, he indicated that the board’s decision on the quarry’s grandfathered status was not necessarily final.

“It’s still on the table, along with any other issue that we as a board would consider substantive,” he said.

MacQuinn’s attorney, Ed Bearor, said he couldn’t imagine the board reversing itself on the grandfathering question, regardless of when they take it up.

“My working assumption is that you are not going to be presented with any information that is any different from what you’ve already heard,” he said. “So, I don’t see how you could reach a different decision unless you simply want to change your mind.”

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]
Dick Broom

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