Election Outcome and Other News

Election

Lamoiners showed up in small numbers on Tuesday, 17.75% or 267 voters out of 1,504 registered, to re-elect incumbent Selectmen Bob Christie (203 votes) and Kathleen Rybarz (145 votes) over challenger Glenn Manring (108 votes). Manring’s positive comments about the gravel industry at Candidate’s Night and at the town hearing for the MacQuinn pit expansion may have damaged his chances with many voters. School Board members Bret Jones and Bob Pulver were re-elected without opposition. Jane Fowler received five write-in votes for tax assessor and according to Stu, has decided to accept the position.

Town Meeting

Lamoiners met at 6 pm on Wednesday, March 20 to approve the town warrant. Attendance was moderate to robust, about 60 persons; later arrivals had to find their own chairs. The first order of business was to name the Citizen of the Year. This accolade fell to Bob Pulver, mentioned above as School Board electee.

Nearly all items were passed by the attendees, raising colored cards, without controversy except for item 11, the petition-initiated change to the Building and Land Use Ordinance, eliminating a footnote allowing pre-2014 gravel pit applicants to re-apply under the old rules. Bret Jones opined that this change was directed at one particular applicant (Harold MacQuinn, Inc.) and therefore looked like “spot zoning”. Planning Board chairman John Holt responded that the change affected more than one company (he mentioned Doug Gott and Sons as an example) and therefore was not spot zoning. The votes against were minor enough to not require a count, but appeared to be 15 or so, including Selectmen Nate Mason and Gary McFarland.

New Public Land?

At Town Meeting, Lamoine Administrative Assistant Stu Marckoon “let the cat out of the bag” (his words) about a land gift to Lamoine via the Frenchman Bay Conservancy. The two parcels comprise 41.5 acres around Blunt’s Pond and also border the Goodwin Pit.

The gray area and the parcel to its right are the two lots proposed to become public land. North is that way—>.

Board of Selectmen member Jo Cooper revealed that she has worked on this with the owners. Member Nate Mason expressed concern that the two parcels would no longer contribute to our tax base (at most $1,600/year). Nate thought if the Conservancy retained ownership we could still collect taxes but audience member and former assessor Michael Jordan countered that as a conservation property the tax would be greatly reduced anyway, perhaps by 95%. Audience member and Conservation Commission chair Larissa Thomas stated that its value to Lamoiners as allowing “some uses permitted on the property” more than compensated for the loss of tax revenue. Bob Christie suggested meeting with the Conservancy at the next meeting to further explore pros and cons. Opinions about this issue can be expressed via Selectmen’s emails by following this link. Note that an email to an individual will automatically go to all Selectmen.

FOL still needs your financial help for our legal bills! Please contribute at our gofundme page.

Winter Updates

 

 

Deer on ice, 5 Feb. 2019, Lamoine.

Oral Arguments

At 2PM on Monday, February 4, FOL’s attorney John Steed made his presentation at Hancock County courthouse before judge Michael A. Duddy. Present were also three members of FOL and Lamoine Selectman Kathleen Rybarz. The consensus among the four was that the day went very well for those who wish to save Cousins’ Hill from being hauled away. Judge Duddy asked specific questions about the “do over” and also the first criterion of the Site Plan Review, Preserve and Enhance the Landscape.

In December of 2017, the Lamoine Planning Board rejected MacQuinn’s Site Plan application based on this criterion as well as three others as stated in the ordinance. The Lamoine Appeals Board reversed the Planning Board’s decision by claiming the four criteria did not apply. A decision is expected in a month or two.

Petition

A citizens group initiated a petition to eliminate a loophole in the Site Plan Review which could enable Harold MacQuinn, Inc. to possibly apply for a third time should the court decide in FOL’s favor (see Oral Arguments above). Additionally, old applicants for Site Plan Review permits going back decades could possibly use this loophole to apply again under the old rules.

Petition summary:  

1. To amend the language of the Building and Land Use Ordinance, Amended May 16, 2018, Town of Lamoine Maine, Section 4. Land Use District Requirements, H. Table of Land Uses, Footnote #3 to clarify its meaning.

Action petitioned for:

We the undersigned request the following amendment to the The Building and Land Use Ordinance be put before the voters as a warrant article.

1. Building and Land Use Ordinance, June 10, 2014, Town of Lamoine Maine, Section 4. Land Use District Requirements, H. Table of Land Uses, Footnote #3 to be changed as follows; text bolded that has line through it (a ​strikethough​), to be removed:

3. Land within the Rural and Agricultural Zone that received ​or applied for​ ​a Site Plan Review permit for gravel operations before March 13, 2013, may continue to be eligible for gravel operations upon Planning Board approval of a gravel permit. ​

The team gathered 111 signatures in one week from Lamoine citizens and submitted them on February 4th. The required number of signers is 10% of the turnout for the last gubernatorial election, which was 963 voters. Therefore, the signatures exceeded the requirement by 14. At the February 7 Board of Selectmen meeting it was decided to schedule a hearing for the ordinance change on March 4 at 6:30 PM at Town Hall and the vote will occur at the Town Meeting at the school on March 20, 2019.

Candidates for town offices

There are three candidates running for two open Board of Selectmen positions. The two incumbents are Bob Christie and Kathleen Rybarz and the third candidate is Glenn Manring. Candidate’s night is scheduled for 7 PM on March 14, at the Grange. The election is Tuesday, March 19. Please show up at candidate’s night and bring your questions.

Also on the ballot are two School Board candidates, Bob Pulver and Brett Jones. They are running for two positions and are therefore unopposed. A position for assessor is open with no candidates, but voters will have an opportunity to write in a candidate. Write-ins are allowed for all positions.

Fundraiser for FOL

FOL now has a gofundme site at gofundme.com/save-lamoines-cousins-hill

The legal expenses of the lawsuit to save Cousins’ Hill are proving to be substantial. Please show your support for saving Cousins’ Hill and make a contribution!

 

A saltwater intrusion could be “hydrologic disaster” for Lamoine

by Willem Brutsaert, Ph.D, Lamoine resident. (As published in the Ellsworth American 1/3/2018).

Dear Editor: Thank you for publishing my commentary, “Lamoine’s hydrologic gamble,” in The Ellsworth American of Dec. 20, despite its length.

Because of space constraints, I refrained from technical details, especially when dealing with the negative impacts on groundwater quality by removing the hill, i.e. Cousins’ Hill.

One such detail, apart from the removal of its filtering effect, relates to the fact that this hill, in groundwater hydrology context, is in close proximity to a saltwater body, namely Jordan River, and this makes that part of Lamoine’s sand and gravel aquifer by definition a “coastal aquifer” vulnerable to “seawater intrusion.”

Seawater intrusion is a natural phenomenon whereby saltwater occurs as a “wedge” below freshwater in coastal aquifers.

Freshwater being lighter than saltwater will “float” like a bubble on top of saltwater near the shore, according to the hydraulic principle of buoyancy (remember Archimedes’ “Eureka”). Infiltration from precipitation will keep the saltwater at bay. During extended periods of drought, the groundwater table will drop and this will cause the saltwater wedge to move (intrude) farther inland. This wedge will be “flushed” back again when the groundwater table rises during the wet season.

Due to this moving back and forth of the wedge, a mixing zone will exist between fresh- and saltwater. And here comes the big “however.” If we now remove the whole hill, permanently lowering the regional groundwater table, as explained in my commentary, the saltwater wedge will now permanently intrude farther inland below the freshwater. Add to that the fact that, due to global warming, seawater level will rise, and we may have a real hydrologic disaster on our hands: Salt water occurrence at much shallower depth and farther inland than is now the case.

No need to say that many household wells in the area will be affected. Based on the elevation of the water table with respect to mean sea level, and the density difference between freshwater and saltwater, one can calculate the approximate depth to saltwater before drilling a well, but that is a story for some other time.

Again, should Lamoine really gamble with its groundwater resources by removing the hill?

Willem Brutsaert Lamoine

Lamoine’s Hydrologic Gamble by Willem Brutsaert, Ph.D.

(As published in the Ellsworth American 12/19/2018).

The plan of an out-of-town sand-and-gravel operator, Harold MacQuinn Inc., is to remove the last remaining hill in Lamoine, located adjacent to the largest concentration of homes in Lamoine, near “Lamoine Corner,” an area generally referred to as the center of town. The incipient disaster is remarkably visible by anyone traveling to Acadia National Park along Route 3 in Trenton near the intersection of Jordan River Road and looking left (east) to the already scarred hilly horizon.

This last hill, locally referred to as Cousins’ Hill, was once part of an extensive ridge of hills, running more or less NNW-SSE, and parallel with Route 184, geologically referred to as an esker, which contains Lamoine’s sand and gravel aquifer. Unfortunately, this ridge of hills is now largely destroyed by a series of gravel pits that have already negatively affected the aquifer, severely decreasing its water storage capacity and increasing its vulnerability to pollution.

A permit application originally submitted in 2012 to remove the hill from its current elevation of over 250 feet down to about 30 to 40 feet of elevation, or about 60 to 70 feet below the adjacent road level, was denied by the Planning Board in 2014, resubmitted in February 2017, and denied again in December 2017. This decision was overturned by the Board of Appeals in June of 2018, despite a majority opposition of Lamoine residents. The Planning Board had no choice but to issue the permit to proceed. Friends of Lamoine, a group of concerned citizens with legal standing in this case, appealed the decision of the Planning Board. It is now up to a court of law to adjudicate this case, and that may happen soon.

Removal of the hill is a major disturbance of the landscape and will have serious hydrologic consequences. What is certain is that the removal will create a large pit that over a period of time will cause a profound lowering of the regional aquifer water table, creating a steep new water table gradient (slope) toward the pit pulling in water from every direction. During the operation of the project it will be necessary to get rid of the water flowing into it, gradually draining all springs that are now flowing out of the toe of the hill. The impact on one spring in particular, called “Cold Spring” flowing out of the southeast toe of the hill, is of major concern.

Cold Spring is managed by a publicly owned water company, established in the late 1800s, that provides water to more than 50 homes, to the Lamoine School, the Fire Department, the church, the Grange and an organic farmer. Cold Spring has always been reliable, flowing fairly steadily year-round, unaffected by weather conditions such as prolonged periods of drought or long periods of harsh winter conditions when frozen soils and snow cover prevent infiltration of precipitation. The only explanation for Cold Spring’s uninterrupted steady flow is that it ties in with the regional groundwater system of the hill. MacQuinn’s hydrogeologists, on the other hand, maintain that the spring is fed by locally “perched” water. This implies a shallow water table which would be vulnerable to the above described weather conditions and would cause intermittent water availability, causing Cold Spring to occasionally run dry. Water levels in observation wells just uphill from Cold Spring do indeed show water levels occasionally lower than the static water level of Cold Spring (elevation 137 feet). This means that occasionally there is no flow of perched water to Cold Spring. And yet the spring keeps flowing — thanks to its connection with the regional groundwater system. However, as the gravel pit gets deeper and deeper, all water will gradually start to drain toward it. This creates a strong likelihood that even the perched system will drain toward it despite its underlying layer of silt and clay. In heterogeneous deposits such as this hill, nothing is impervious. Unfortunately much of the analysis of MacQuinn’s hydrogeologists is based on extrapolation of a limited amount of data. Furthermore they disregard the existence of a groundwater divide just uphill from Cold Spring that effectively prevents much perched water from flowing to Cold Spring. A groundwater divide, sometimes called a hydraulic barrier, is a ridge in the water table that prevents water from crossing it.

A concluding statement by the Board of Appeals was, “There is one in a million chance that Cold Spring will ever run dry, ”( i.e. if the hill were to be removed). This supposition is absurd and misleading, reflecting ignorance of the concepts of regional groundwater flow.

No one must be given a permit that would risk causing Cold Spring to stop flowing. The Board of Appeals’ decision to require the Planning Board issue a permit for removal of the rest of Cousins’ Hill poses a serious threat not only to Cold Spring but also to the town’s ground water. The town cannot afford to play a game of chance with its most vital resource. I and many residents hope the court will find the Board of Appeals has erred in its interpretation of the ordinances and of their authority.

Willem Brutsaert is an emeritus professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Maine. He has professional experience in North Africa, Germany, Belgium, Colorado, New Mexico and in Maine. While at UMaine he taught courses in fluid mechanics, surface water and groundwater hydrology, open channel hydraulics and groundwater systems modeling. He is a resident of Lamoine.

Court Rejects MacQuinn’s Motion to Dismiss

Friends of Lamoine are suing the Town of Lamoine for the issuance of permits for expansion of Harold MacQuinn Inc.’s Kittridge Pit. The expansion would result in the removal of Cousins’ Hill at the center of Lamoine. The Lamoine Planning Board had rejected the permit application first in 2014 and again last December (2017), but the Lamoine Board of Appeals voted to overturn the Planning Board’s decision in what FOL contends is a misapplication of our ordinances. FOL’s suit was filed on August 7, 2018. MacQuinn’s attorney filed a motion claiming that this date was more than 30 days after the reversal decision, assuming the relevant date was the action of the Board of Appeals to overturn, (signed June 22), not the vote by the Planning Board, which occurred July 9. The Court stated in a decision on 22 Oct, 2018 supporting the FOL attorney’s arguments:

With the first hurdle behind them, FOL now looks forward to the formal filing of the appeal, which should occur in early November.

 

 

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