By Anne Funderburk
Over the past few months, there have been many letters to the editor expressing grave concerns about the possibility that a license to quarry might be issued by the Planning Board of the town of Mount Desert to Freshwater Stone (lessee) in a quarry owned by Harold MacQuinn Inc. in the village of Hall Quarry.
It has been pointed out by many writers that the quarrying ordinance enacted by the voters at town meeting in 2013 expressly forbids such an action unless the quarry in question has been active within the 18 months prior to the passage of the ordinance. The operators and owner contend that they were removing previously cut stone from the site during that period. But according to the ordinance, such removal does not meet the definition of “quarrying.” It is defined as the “separation of stone from its bedrock.” That particular activity ceased several years earlier.
Presumably this lack of activity in an area listed as “vacant” on the town map is what prompted the town to rezone the area as “residential.”
This encouraged people to buy land there and build houses, effectively increasing the property value and hence the amount of tax monies to the town.
Exactly how did the town ascertain that there was no active quarrying at the time of rezoning? The citizens deserve full disclosure on the issue.
The quarrying ordinance expressly states that its definitions may not be “redefined” by any person, group or entity other than the registered voters of the town of Mount Desert in town meeting assembled. Nevertheless, this is precisely what the Planning Board has done by granting “grandfathered” status to the owner, relying solely on his testimony.
No hearing was held on this illegal “redefinition,” nor were residents present at Planning Board discussions allowed to question or comment on the proceedings. This denial of public input smacks of dictatorship rather than democracy!
The behavior of the Planning Board, the Board of Selectmen, the town manager, the code enforcement officer and the attorney for the town is completely out of line with their separate charges of duty to all the citizens of the town of Mount Desert. If they can disregard the quarrying ordinance with impunity, then what is to stop them from disregarding other town ordinances? The citizens of this town would be unable to consider themselves safe from whatever their elected officials, their hired staff and their appointed committees or boards may choose to countenance.
The act of allowing this illegal permit to be issued would be tantamount to a declaration of war against the tax-paying citizens of Mount Desert. The more people know about what is actually going on, the more likely they will be to support this protest in order to protect themselves from the arbitrary and capricious behavior of those entrusted with the well-being of the town.
If the Board of Selectmen hires or appoints people to serve the town in various capacities, then that board is ethically, if not legally, responsible for overseeing their personnel and for ascertaining the proper discharge of their duties and responsibilities to the citizens who have elected that board and who pay both board members and hired personnel. While some boards and committees are appointed by the selectmen and serve the town without pay, this does not excuse members of those boards and committees from their duty to abide by town ordinances.
I invite the citizens of the town of Mount Desert to attend the Board of Selectmen’s meeting on Monday, Oct. 17, at 6:30 p.m. in the town hall on Sea Street in Northeast Harbor, as well as the meeting of the Planning Board on Tuesday, Oct. 18, at 6 p.m., also in the town hall on Sea Street.
You have the right to know what your public servants are doing in your name and ensure that they don’t do it to you.
Anne Stebbins Funderburk is a resident of Seal Harbor.