To the Editor:
The Mount Desert Quarry License Application has been a frustrating process to all individuals involved, especially for the ones who live in Hall Quarry.
People should know this new working pit activity is not just a noise issue. MacQuinn and Freshwater Stone are attempting to use the “nonconforming use” term to reopen a working pit that was not active for decades. MacQuinn may have occasionally picked up rocks from a stockpile, but that activity is not the same as separating the granite from the bedrock.
While that working pit was vacant for decades, homes were built in the area, and private wells were drilled. The forested wetland, along the western border of the current expanding quarry, was identified as a high value habitat for priority trust species by Inland Fish and Wildlife. It recommended that the area be surveyed for significant vernal pools and bat species that are protected under the Federal Endangered Species Act. To my knowledge, no unbiased surveyor has examined the affected properties, particularly the areas that receive surface water runoff from the quarry, at the legally defined times for significant vernal pools.
This spring, I could hear wood frogs calling at dusk and dawn. My 5-year-old son caught a spotted salamander, so I know they are present in the area. The presence and abundance of wood frog and spotted salamander eggs is a way vernal pools are identified to be significant in the state of Maine. Vernal pools and quarry pools surround this forested wetland, which also is ecologically connected to an Acadia National Park wetland.
The Protected Natural Resource document in MacQuinn’s quarry license application was completed a couple of years after they reopened the working pit. Compliance work should be completed before the project area is impacted, not after.
The document is full of Natural Resource Agency letters stating there is no record of plants, animals or habitat of concern. Then the document incorrectly concludes the lack of data must mean species are not present. In reality, the agency letters only indicate that there is currently no record in their data systems.
Another issue I have with this document is the correspondence letter from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The report states “Migratory bird information is not available for your project location.” I thought that odd considering there is a large forested wetland present. Then I realized the project location area did not include the entire property owned by MacQuinn. After I entered the correct project location, 19 migratory bird species were listed as species of concern. The application might contain 200 pages, but who is fact-checking?
Allowing this working pit to be active in this historic quarry also will have a negative impact on home values. I never would have purchased my home two years ago if the selling agent had disclosed Freshwater Stone’s intent to quarry less that 500 feet away. MacQuinn and Freshwater can extract material from numerous other quarries they own. I have only one home. I am outraged that they are claiming this quarry has been continuously active for decades, while the working pit was not in operation.
The attorney representing the town justifies Mac Quinn’s quarry as a nonconforming use by developing his own definition of quarrying which includes carrying stone. His broad definition is from the town’s 1976 Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary which defines quarrying as cutting and carrying stone. Then he redefined the word “and” to mean “or.” This attorney considers MacQuinn’s activity of removing stone from stockpiles as quarrying. Instead of adopting the attorney’s definition, the Planning Board should consider the state of Maine’s definition of a working pit, the location where the real quarrying happens, and determine if this working pit has been continuously active during the time the town zoned Hall Quarry a residential area.
Kelly M. O’Neil