MOUNT DESERT — Code Enforcement Officer Kim Keene has ordered an immediate halt to all extraction activities at the granite quarry owned by Harold MacQuinn Inc. in the village of Hall Quarry.
The quarry is leased and operated by Freshwater Stone.
MacQuinn applied for a quarrying license in 2014, but the town’s Planning Board has yet to rule on that application.
Freshwater President Jeff Gammelin said last November that he planned to resume drilling and granite removal at the Hall Quarry site.
Asked at the time how he could legally do that without Planning Board approval, Gammelin said, “We feel that them not making a decision doesn’t have anything to do with what we feel is our right to be in here and quarry.”
He said the quarrying operation’s grandfathered status, which a number of people who live near the quarry dispute, gives him the authority.
Keene said in December that, after consulting with the town attorney, she had concluded that Freshwater’s activities at the quarry were not in violation of the quarrying license ordinance, which voters approved in 2013.
“If and when there is a matter that I feel as code enforcement officer requires enforcement, I will undertake that action,” she said.
Over the past few weeks, several Hall Quarry residents who oppose the granting of a license complained again to town officials about noise from the operation.
“They were going full bore with drilling and jack-hammering,” said Judy Aylen, whose property abuts the quarry site.
Kelly O’Neill, who lives next door to the Aylens, said stone cutting had been occurring on and off for most of the month of August.
“It seemed like they would go through a pattern of drilling for a couple of hours and then get the loader and load up their trucks with the granite,” she said.
O’Neill said the last time she heard drilling at the quarry was Friday, Sept. 2.
A few days later, Keene sent a “notice of violation and stop work order” to MacQuinn, in which she ordered the landowner to “immediately cease any and all quarrying activities and activities related to quarrying, including sales of stone, on and from your said property… .”
She added that failure to comply with her order could lead to legal action against the company and penalties for each day the violation continues, and that the penalties could apply to any of MacQuinn’s agents or lessees who use the quarry.
Keene said the stop-work order would be in effect “unless and until another ‘official’ determination has been made that the activity is otherwise lawful.”
MacQuinn has 30 days from the date of the stop-work order to appeal that order to the town’s Board of Appeals.
Company President Paul MacQuinn said he hasn’t decided whether to appeal.
Gammelin, the Freshwater Stone president, said Tuesday that he thinks the order should be challenged.
“But from a practical sense, I’m not sure it’s worth it because we’re having a Planning Board meeting soon, which I hope will be the last one,” he said.
“We still believe strongly that we have the right to quarry there. We have proved that we have been grandfathered and that we have the right to quarry while we are trying to get the license that they are requiring of us.”
Gammelin repeated a previous accusation that some of the neighboring homeowners who oppose the granting of a quarrying license “relentlessly lie” about Freshwater Stone’s activities at the quarry.
“Almost every single complaint they have made, saying that we are going beyond the rules or doing something we’re not supposed to, turn out to be totally wrong. We are being blamed for any noise that happens around there.”
Asked why she had issued the stop-work order now, when she had declined to do so previously, Keene deferred to Town Attorney James Collier, with whom she consulted on the action.
“Part of CEO Keene’s job is to seek compliance with the town’s ordinances,” Collier said in a written statement. “She and I have encouraged MacQuinn and its lessee, Freshwater Stone, to work with their neighbors by not quarrying (i.e., by not actively cutting stone) until they have a permit to do so. We wanted any quarrying to take place pursuant to regulations. Freshwater Stone has shown an ongoing desire to disregard that encouragement.”
Keene said in her stop-work order to MacQuinn that it had come to her attention that Freshwater Stone was offering for sale stone from the Hall Quarry site. She pointed out that the town’s quarrying ordinance not only prohibits quarrying without a license, but also the offering for sale of “any materials in a quarry site which has not been approved by the planning board and recorded in the Registry of Deeds.”
The Freshwater Stone website’s “product” page states that the company “sells Freshwater Pearl Granite and Hall Quarry Granite “cut to size.” Another page on the website includes photos of the Hall Quarry site.
Gammelin said the company is only selling Hall Quarry granite that was cut previously, so he doesn’t think he needs to remove references to Hall Quarry from his website.
“I don’t think [town officials] are quite aware of the inventory of stone that we have and have had for years,” he said. “So, we do sell the stone, yes. Why wouldn’t we sell the stone that we have in inventory that we got five years ago?”
The resumption of the public hearing on MacQuinn’s application for a quarrying license is scheduled for Oct 18.
The Planning Board opened the hearing in January 2015. It was suspended that spring after the Maine Department of Environmental Protection ruled that MacQuinn needed to comply with state environmental standards. State law requires such compliance for quarries larger than one acre, and MacQuinn’s application was for a 2.1-acre quarry.
After MacQuinn revised its license application, reducing the size of the quarrying operation to one acre, the Planning Board resumed the public hearing last August. Several sessions of the hearing have been held since then, the most recent on June 14 of this year.
At last week’s meeting of the Board of Selectmen, board member Martha Dudman said she recently had heard from two Hall Quarry residents who were upset about the “racket” from the quarry.
“It seems like for years it’s been going back and forth, and there’s no resolution,” she said. “I would like to know what to say when people ask me what’s going on.”
Town Manager Durlin Lunt said he would ask the chairman of the Planning Board, Bill Hanley, to come to the Sept. 19 selectmen’s meeting to talk about the status of MacQuinn’s application.