From Lamoine’s Jordan River Road, Harold MacQuinn Inc.’s completed gravel excavation is visible on Cousins Hill. BRUCE GILLETT PHOTO

Gravel pit permit renewal draws public criticism

LAMOINE Comments were heard at the Planning Board’s public hearing Monday night, but no further action was taken regarding the gravel extraction permit application for Harold MacQuinn Inc. to continue operating the Kittredge Pit on Cousin’s Hill off Douglas Highway.

That’s because the applicant, represented by Steve Salsbury of Herrick & Salsbury Inc., an Ellsworth consulting firm, requested that the hearing be postponed until the board’s June meeting when the general contracting company could have its attorney present.

The request got the meeting off to a bit of a tense start. 

Chairman John Holt informed the board and public in attendance that the applicant had requested on the Friday prior to the meeting to postpone the public hearing due to a scheduling conflict with the applicant’s attorney.

Holt then recused himself from responding to the request due to a conflict of interest from his involvement with Cold Spring Water Co., an abutter to the pit.

Vice Chairman Don Bamman weighed in.

“I find this change of schedule rude and inconsiderate,” Bamman said. “Why should the applicant’s failure to get their ducks in a row impact so many people that were planning on processing this today?”

The board reviewed the town’s gravel ordinance, which states that “Within 45 days of receipt of a complete application, but after the site walk … the board shall hold a public hearing regarding the application,” and made the determination to hold the public hearing.

However, the board did decide to push the findings of facts and decision on the gravel permit application, the site plan review permit pre-application and the completeness review for the site plan permit application to the board’s June meeting. 

The application is to renew the existing mining permits at the pit, which is done every three years. This renewal is coming before the board a year before the permit’s expiration so that MacQuinn can also get a site plan review to construct a new work road at the pit.  

“You can’t get one without the other,” Salsbury explained to The American.

The gravel operation has a contentious history with the Planning Board and some abutters, which started when the company applied to expand its pit operations in 2012.

Citing concerns for the area’s groundwater, the application was denied multiple times by the Planning Board, including a denial in 2017.

In 2018, the town’s Board of Appeals reversed that decision. 

Friends of Lamoine, a volunteer group whose mission includes encouraging “balanced social and economic development that conserves our natural resources,” built a case against the pit’s expansion.

The case made its way through the state’s court system, eventually landing at the Maine Supreme Judicial Court in 2020. The court upheld the Planning Board’s denial. 

Kathryn Gaianguest, a Friends of Lamoine board member, shared a list of concerns for the Planning Board to consider before issuing the permit renewal, and asked that the board require MacQuinn to establish exact markers so that mining operations do not expand past approved boundaries.  

“We urge that the Planning Board, before giving further consideration to Harold MacQuinn’s application for a gravel permit, require the applicant to erect exact permanent boundary markers along entire area of lots 33 and 31, which have passed the site plan review, thus setting off the part of lot 31 that can’t be excavated as per the Maine Supreme Court decision,” she read from a prepared statement. 

The statement also requested that MacQuinn provide a detailed restoration plan for an area that had already been mined outside of the permitted area and that a stop work order be issued while the above items are addressed, to help assure the public of compliance with the Maine Supreme Court decision.

Steven Roiphe echoed this sentiment.

“I wonder how much I would advise the town, as a citizen, to tolerate violated boundaries … from a company that we’ve spent, as a town … years arguing with and in court with,” he said. “Personally, I would answer I would like to limit it.”

Speaking as a representative of the Cold Spring Water Co., Chairman Holt called the application for the gravel permit “nearly identical” to the one that was approved in 2019, except for the addition of the work road, which has not received a site plan review approval yet.

In other business, the Planning Board approved the renewal of a gravel permit application for PCJ, LLC, at the R.F. Jordan & Sons Construction Inc. King Pit.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated Holt’s advice to the board. He stated that were the board to find that all other application requirements had been met, it should place the condition on the gravel permit that all references to the proposed work road be deleted since that work has not yet been approved.

Rebecca Alley

Rebecca Alley

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
Rebecca is the Schoodic-area reporter and covers the towns of Eastbrook, Franklin, Hancock, Lamoine, Sorrento, Sullivan, Waltham, Winter Harbor and Trenton. She lives in Ellsworth with her husband and baby boy who was joyously welcomed in June 2020. Feel free to send tips and story ideas to [email protected]

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