Quarry argument is full of holes

By Judy Aylen

In September of 2010, we awoke to the sounds of an industrial quarrying operation 250-300 feet from our back door in Hall Quarry. We have lived in our home since 1990 and never heard any quarrying activity nor saw any equipment on the MacQuinn lot.

Our property abuts the quarry, and we can hear everything that goes on there. Anyone within earshot of the quarry knows no quarrying has been going on for at least 20 years.

Attorney Ed Bearor, representing Harold MacQuinn Inc., wrote to the town of Mount Desert on July 28, 2009, stating that Freshwater Stone and Brick Inc. wanted to remove more material from the site, and that it would be a “cleaner, quieter method” of quarrying. They also stated “we are hopeful that the operation will be of no consequence to abutting property owners.” This was the first and only appearance of concern for the abutters.

The town was unable to find any record that Harold MacQuinn Inc. received approval by the planning board for a conditional-use permit required by the town. They had no permit.

In 2010, the town allowed Freshwater Stone and Brick to start up an industrial quarrying operation without a permit and without doing any research as to whether quarrying had been ongoing in our residentially zoned neighborhood. Had they done their homework, they would have found out there had been no ongoing quarrying operation. I believe the town made a mistake by allowing this to happen.

A Mineral Extraction Permit Moratorium was put in place, thanks to the efforts of all the people in our community who went door to door with petitions and to the voters of Mount Desert.

A Quarrying Ordinance was put together more for the benefit of the quarry operator than for the protection of the citizens. But at least it is a start. No new quarries are permitted in Mount Desert. And the quarry ordinance and ban on new quarries passed by a two-to-one margin at a special town meeting on July 25 of last year. The people overwhelmingly do not want quarrying in the town.

But that still leaves us, the residents of our neighborhood, to endure the horrendous noise from an industrial quarrying operation in our backyards. We have 18 people in our neighborhood who have sworn affidavits regarding the inactivity at the quarry for decades: no equipment at the site, no noise, no quarrying. Occasionally, a few stones that were cut decades ago may have been picked up off the ground.

Our properties have been greatly devalued because of the now active quarrying going on in our midst. Our next door neighbor, who is 82 years old, has not been able to sell her home, which she needs to do to see her through the rest of her life.

And what about the rest of us who will be retiring in the not-so-distant future and will not be able to live in our homes? We personally are depending on the sale of our home in order to retire. How can we sell with quarrying going on 250-300 feet from our back door?

For some reason, the town doesn’t seem to care about the concerns of taxpaying citizens in our community. It has been more than four years since the quarry started up, and we still have not been able to speak.

I was hopeful that the planning board would listen to what we have to say, but Mr. Collier, our town attorney, would not let us speak.

Paul MacQuinn was permitted to speak. Ben Moore was permitted to speak on Mr. MacQuinn’s behalf. And Jeff Gammelin of Freshwater Stone and Brick was asked a simple question about the color of stone he purchased, and he couldn’t answer. Mr. MacQuinn piped in with the correct answer. The planning board proceeded to take a vote on whether Mr. MacQuinn was “grandfathered” without listening to any of the people directly affected by the operation. They did not ask our lawyer, Dan Pileggi, a single question about an entire community of people who have walked through the inactive quarry for 20 years or more. Why were we not given any consideration?

The vote was taken, and three out of five board members determined that Mr. MacQuinn was “grandfathered” because they were going to give him the benefit of the doubt. I thank the two who said they did not have enough information to vote.

The planning board also reinterpreted the dictionary definition of the word quarrying. It now means you can pick up just one rock (previously cut decades ago) once a year, and that counts. And then you don’t even need to prove that!

How can having six small questionable sales in 24 months from an off-site location, not Hall Quarry, with no invoices for five out of the six, be considered active quarrying in Hall Quarry?

Why do we have rules in the Land Use Zoning Ordinance if they are not enforced?

There are gaps of more than 18 months with no activity at the quarry. Only “yard slips” from other sites – no invoices, dollar amounts, receipts, cancelled checks or journal entries – were provided. Does this constitute active quarrying?

I believe Mr. MacQuinn is a powerful man on the island. And we are a community of people who have had to endure what we believe is an illegal operation for four years now. Isn’t the town supposed to be working for the citizens of Mount Desert?

Many people wonder if something is not in their backyard why they should care? Well, it is in our backyard, and we are hoping that people do care and will attend the public hearing of the planning board regarding the MacQuinn quarry license application and speak out. The date of this meeting has not been determined yet. You can also voice your opinion to this newspaper or write to the town of Mount Desert. Any and all support from a caring community will be most appreciated by all of us who are affected by this injustice.

Judy Aylen is a resident of Hall Quarry.