To the Editor:
Friends of Lamoine, a local citizens group devoted to supporting sustainable use of Lamoine’s resources, was distressed by some of the assertions in the Nov. 30 editorial of this outstanding paper.
Several references to the relationship between the gravel industry and local communities apply directly to Lamoine but do not present the whole picture. Lamoine has had constant gravel mining that has grown in scale and intensity since 1930, resulting in over 300 acres of large, deep, open pits. These pits now dominate the landscape down the center of the Lamoine peninsula, with their mining operations creating air and noise pollution and extensive large truck traffic. The pits lie over a large aquifer, an important water source for the town that could be easily polluted beyond recovery by mining activities. Citizens living daily with this industry in Lamoine understand that the “balance” your editorial mentions was lost many years ago.
We concur that maintaining a balance between industry and community harmony is critical for all of us. However, equally critical is maintaining a balance between using and protecting our natural resources. We all benefit when renewable resources, be they on land or sea, are harvested at sustainable rates.
Devising best practices for using nonrenewable resources is much more difficult. Mineral deposits, stone, sand and gravel have been used to great advantage for building structures and roads. But once they’re gone, they don’t grow back. Businesses and industries can no longer ignore the impact of depletion of either renewable or nonrenewable resources.
Four large, out-of-town, gravel companies mining in Lamoine have made no attempt to devise ways for expended pits to become productive acres once gravel has been removed. These businesses have even fallen short in meeting requirements to “restore” emptied sections of their active pits. No economic gain comes to any town from the mining of sand and gravel. State law does not allow a town to tax on the real economic value of a gravel pit. The town receives higher taxes from almost every other use of land. If businesses expect the community to work out accommodations to their activities, the community has a right to expect them to propose ways to help the town rather than pushing against or circumventing local ordinances.
The claim in the editorial that it has taken a gravel company five years to secure a mining permit in Lamoine is unfounded. Lamoine’s gravel and land use ordinances provide very clear guidelines, which have been followed by the Planning Board in the denial of this permit. It was the applicant’s choice to contest the denial in court, a choice that has been costly to the town in time and money.
The editorial implies that, if a permit is not granted, the community does not support business or industry. Issues are different for each community. In Lamoine, the current issue is the removal of the last remaining hill in the center of our town, in the most densely populated residential area. We certainly do support business; the applicant currently has several permitted gravel pits in Lamoine. We also support residents who live here and cannot tolerate the prospect of this proposal, which proposes an estimated 70-plus years of mining in the most active area of town.
Lamoine supports a wide range of small businesses that provide many occupations that are more compatible with the size of our peninsula and community. It is on these that we see the promise of a sustainable economy for the future of Lamoine.
Friends of Lamoine