LAMOINE — Harold MacQuinn Inc.’s proposed project to expand its Kittridge gravel-extraction operation from 65 to 108 acres on Cousins Hill, which had been the subject of multiple lawsuits over seven years, won’t proceed following a Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruling issued May 19.
In its 2018 lawsuit, the nonprofit group Friends of Lamoine had built a case challenging the Lamoine Appeals Board’s reversal of the Lamoine Planning Board’s 2017 denial of MacQuinn’s site plan review permit for the Kittridge Pit expansion.
In its May 19 ruling, the court unanimously upheld the Planning Board’s 2017 denial of MacQuinn’s site plan review permit on grounds including the construction contractor’s failure “to demonstrate the lack of adverse impact upon groundwater, and in particular the aquifer and the Cold Spring Water Company public water supply.”
The American was unable to reach MacQuinn’s attorney, Ed Bearor, for comment before press time.
Representing Friends of Lamoine, Ellsworth attorney Maxwell Coolidge applauded the ruling written by Acting Chief Justice Andrew Mead.
“The ruling is that the municipal board of appeals was wrong to overturn the Planning Board’s initial denial of the permit,” Coolidge said this week, adding that the Maine Supreme Judicial Court has the last word. “This is a win for local control, the democratic process and the rights of communities to direct the course of their futures.”
Coolidge said municipal planning boards can and should “make decisions for the long-term health and well-being of their communities. That includes protecting natural beauty, sensitive environmental areas and landscapes of historical significance.”
In 2017, Lamoine Planning Board member Donald Bamman served as acting chairman when MacQuinn’s 2017 permits were denied and the board’s decision was later overturned by the Board of Appeals. At the time, Planning Board Chairman John Holt recused himself due to a conflict of interest.
“Through the litigation by Friends of Lamoine, the court came to the same conclusion as the Planning Board,” he noted this week. “We were opposed to the application and we felt we had good grounds to deny it.”
In gravel-rich Lamoine, pit operators’ expansion options are limited. In a 2014 referendum vote, voters approved an amendment to the Building and Land Use Ordinance prohibiting any new gravel pits in the town’s rural and agricultural zone, which encompasses much of the town.
In addition, the town has in place a comprehensive gravel ordinance that allows the town to consider whether a proposed gravel operation poses an “unreasonable” threat to health, safety, erosion, sedimentation, water pollution, natural beauty, public ways and surrounding properties.