MOUNT DESERT — Nearly three years after ruling that a granite quarry in the village of Hall Quarry was a grandfathered use and, therefore, owner Harold MacQuinn Inc. could apply for a quarrying license, the Planning Board Tuesday night reversed that decision.
Based on a combination of case law cited by the board’s attorney, James Collier, and their interpretation of the town’s quarrying ordinance, the board voted 4-1 to find that the application did not meet the standard for grandfathering. Board Chairman Bill Hanley cast the dissenting vote.
Attorney Ed Bearor, who represents MacQuinn and Freshwater Stone, which has leased and operated the quarry, said his clients are likely to appeal the Planning Board’s decision to the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals.
An ordinance approved by voters in 2013 prohibits mineral extraction, including quarrying, in all zoning districts. But “existing” quarries were grandfathered and eligible for licensing.
The MacQuinn quarry is the only one in Mount Desert that had been considered to exist. But that has been the subject of intense debate.
Nearby residents have argued that the quarry was not eligible for grandfathered status because there were long periods of time over the past couple of decades when stone was not being extracted. Between 1978 and 2009, an activity could be considered grandfathered under the land use ordinance if it occurred without a break of more than 18 months. Since 2009, the standard has been 12 months.
Bearor told the Planning Board Tuesday night, as he did in September 2014 when the board ruled in MacQuinn’s favor on the grandfathering question, that quarrying is not only the extraction of stone, but also the removal of previously cut stone from a site.
“We have not been in there drilling and sawing since the early 2000s; we have been picking up materials that had been previously removed from the bedrock and transporting it,” Bearor said. “That is an integral part of the quarrying operation.”
Dan Pileggi, the attorney representing two couples who live near the quarry, restated his opposing view. Noting that stone cutting at the quarry resumed in 2011, he said, “For years pre-dating 2011, this quarry was abandoned other than people going in and picking up loose rocks. You have tons of data that supports this.”
The Planning Board decided that quarrying involves both “cutting and carrying” of stone. Board members Dave Ashmore, Dennis Kiley and Meredith Randolph said that prior to 2011, those activities had not occurred at the MacQuinn quarry within the timeframe required by the land use ordinance.
Board member Lili Andrews said she was undecided and wished to abstain from voting. But Collier urged her to vote one way or the other, and she ultimately sided with the majority.
Some board members indicated they were persuaded by the testimony given at their May 11 meeting by people who live near the quarry. Several residents said that since extraction resumed in 2011, the quarry’s noise and other disturbances have negatively impacted the quality of their lives and their property values.
If the Board of Appeals agrees with the Planning Board, MacQuinn and Freshwater Stone could take their appeal to Superior Court. If the appeals board rules that the quarry operation is grandfathered and MacQuinn is entitled to apply for a license, then the matter could either go back to the Planning Board for consideration of the license application, or the quarry opponents could possibly appeal to the court.