On Wednesday, November 9, 2017 Lamoiners gathered in the school gymnasium to speak their minds about the proposed pit expansion by Harold MacQuinn, Inc. Community organization Friends of Lamoine has “standing” in this process, meaning they had the same rights as abutters (land owners directly adjacent to the pit). Because of this, FOL’s and abutters’ testimonies were first.
FOL’s new attorney, John Steed of Ellen Best Law of Blue Hill and Stonington, ME, made an opening statement considering the “do over” to be a poor example of legal procedure since it was negotiated between attorneys and not the result of a court mandate. He also criticized MacQuinn’s application as not current, lacking proper updates since the original 2012 application. He found this especially inadequate given the town-wide vote against new gravel pits. Finally, he made a statement again requesting Planning Board member Richard McMullen’s removal due to his open support of the pit expansion as he stated in a video of the 2014 hearing which was for the same application. At that time, McMullen was not a Planning Board member.
Carol Korty, Friends of Lamoine member, submitted a six page document detailing what FOL members believed were reasons to reject both the gravel and site plan review applications, signed by 54 Lamoiners.
FOL member Bruce Gillett then discussed a study he conducted showing that the area within 1/4 mile of the pit boundary to be the area of Lamoine with the highest population density. As the “center of Lamoine” he concluded, the Planning Board must weigh carefully whether it was appropriate to site a large pit there. His testimony drew applause, as did all testimony against the applications from then on.
John Holt, as representative of abutter Cold Spring Water Company, reiterated concerns with the water supply serving 54 customers, including the Lamoine School, from a well adjacent to the proposed pit expansion. At issue was whether the Cold Spring aquifer was sufficiently separate from the aquifer below Cousins’ Hill and could be safeguarded against pollution and a reduction of flow. He also advocated several additional safeguards should the permit be granted.
FOL member Catherine deTuede, read a statement encompassing real estate values, historical land uses and natural beauty as reasons to reject the application. She also highlighted the importance of preserving the ice age geology of Lamoine and noted that Cousins’ Hill is the last intact esker.
Susan Wuorinen spoke of the importance of pure water from the gravel aquifer and the dangers of dust inhalation and how the danger increases as the particles decrease in size. She said the most dangerous dust is invisible, under 10 microns, and gravel operations are sources. She pointed out that no provisions exist in the application for monitoring dust levels, and that other states like Texas have very stringent laws separating gravel operations from residential areas.
Carol Korty then read a personal statement regretting that the views seen by people approaching Lamoine are now of scarred hillsides and that cherished public vistas are subject to the profit motives of private land owners. Hills and pure water are non-renewable resources, she argued, and must be placed above renewable resources in relative importance, especially considering the long life of the pit expansion.
Mill Road resident Valerie Sprague submitted a statement signed by many of her neighbors detailing how life has changed since gravel mining has encroached. She sited noise, dust, difficulty selling property and increased traffic.
Kathryn Gaianguest reported on her questionnaire to local realtors. As a trained sociologist she stated that her questionnaire methodology was according to established sociological discipline. She reported that the 10 respondents of 29 sent out represented a very good return (34%). In the responses, realtors mostly acknowledged the effect of proximity to Lamoine’s gravel pits on the price, marketability and sales of Lamoine property. Only 3 respondents replied that the proposed pit expansion should have no effect on property values in the area. Realtor comments agreed that nearness to pits had the biggest effect on real estate, especially if the property were situated on a road with high truck traffic.
One lone supporter, abutter Glenn Manring, voiced his opinion that the gravel pit has been a good neighbor to him. He said gravel trucks were driven by better drivers than typical local vehicles and that he didn’t find noise, dust or home value to be issues. He recommended approval without “personal agendas or nepotism getting in the way”.
After an hour and twenty minutes the floor was turned over to comments from the general public. Former Planning Board member Gordon Donaldson pointed out that MacQuinn’s application must “make the case” that the project should go forward, with the interests of the community in mind. He maintained that the application has a weak and non-existent restoration plan, is lacking in procedural safeguards and says “where practical” in reference to maintaining a 2.5:1 slope of the land, and no such qualifier exists in our ordinances. Also, he had the same concern about three wetlands near the pit that others voiced about the Cold Spring aquifer. Nothing in the application claimed that these wetlands would be separate and protected under the proposed expansion. He also mentioned what he considers a poor track record of restoration by the applicant.
Willem Brutsaert, civil and environmental engineer with a specialty in hydrology, took the floor and repeated his assessment that the removal of Cousins’ Hill will cause Cold Spring to stop flowing. His support of this belief is that Cold Spring flow is not dependent on seasonal rainfall but instead has flow characteristics indicating a much larger aquifer, proving connection to the aquifer under the hill. It is MacQuinn’s hydrology team’s contention that Cold Spring draws from a “perched” water table, a separate aquifer, and that it will not be affected by pit operations since it is separated by a clay layer. Brutsaert also warned about inevitable hydrocarbon spills.
MacQuinn’s hydrogeologist Mike Deyling, vice president of CES Inc., rebutted Brutsaert on the basis that his presentation ignores the presence of the clay layer, which Deyling’s study shows, and which he claims separate the two aquifers. He also noted that test wells on both sides of the clay layer have a water level much different from each other, and that if the Cold Spring’s aquifer were connected; the levels should be similar.
Former Planning Board member Jim Gallagher focused on Cousins’ Hill as a prime example of the balance between profits for the individual and the greater needs of the community. This balance was established early in our democracy and it is our right as a community to exercise today. He said MacQuinn’s attorney argued that “beauty” was a quality too vague to be considered. Dr. Gallagher argued that “natural beauty is a real phenomenon and part of the intricate organism that is our community”. The application should be rejected, he argued, because by destroying the hill, a major part of the community is also destroyed.
Charles Brann was born and raised in Lamoine, served in the armed forces from 1950 to 1972 and said he is bewildered by having learned that water runs downhill, but not in the case of Cousins’ Hill according to his reading of the application. He believes Cold Spring will dry up, home values will diminish, and MacQuinn should pay for new wells for all customers.
John Holt stood this time as a private citizen and announced his recommendation for denial. He felt our Site Plan Review Ordinance’s first criterion, that a project must “preserve and enhance the landscape” is not met by this application. He supported this contention by stating the need to balance the rights of owners of nearby properties with those of the applicant. The landscape will be unalterably changed by the hill’s removal and so it will “cross the line” from positive to negative for the first criterion.
Ian Heyse said he was sad to see Lamoine’s version of “mountain top removal”. He asked Paul MacQuinn on behalf of the young people of Lamoine to, “Please pull out the application”, and “maybe the town will name the hill after you”.
Nancy Pochan agreed that it really was “mountain top removal” and “once it’s gone, it’s gone.”
John Steed, lawyer for Friends of Lamoine, reiterated the various arguments against approval and asked the Planning Board to include the non-FOL testimony into the record. He also made note that Cousins’ Hill is the tallest hill in town and its removal was not “the right thing to do”.
Jane and John Pette wrote a statement, read by Valerie Sprague, recommending denial. They contend that MacQuinn’s gravel operation often started earlier than allowed, 3:00 AM, and that they therefore didn’t trust the company to follow the law if the permits are granted.
Irene Laney stated concerns about natural beauty and water quality and wondered if a neutral study could be commissioned to address her water concerns. She felt the work commissioned by MacQuinn could not be trusted.
Dr. Gaianguest made a personal statement suggesting that the enormity of the effect on Lamoine of this 100 acre pit requires two formal studies: full and independent environmental and community impact studies.
Planning Board member David Legere made a request of the town attorney. He asked if the poor record for restoration by the applicant can be considered when making his judgment on the new pit application. Attorney Dan Pileggi said the board can consider credibility questions when evaluating the applicant but cannot consider “extraneous” information.
Dr. Gallagher then urged the board to take more time to read all the submitted information and postpone the scheduled November 14 meeting date, at which time the review process is to begin.
FOL attorney John Steed again took the mike to request that the time for document submission be extended beyond tonight’s meeting until the following Monday, 11/13/17. A motion by David Legere to close submissions was then voted upon. The vote was unanimous. Acting chairman Bamman then held a vote to adjourn, also unanimous.