The Board of Selectmen meeting of 12 December, 2014 had some very good news. The Ames lawsuit has been “dismissed without prejudice”. This is a legal term for the plaintiffs withdrawing their lawsuit with the option of reviving in the future at their discretion.
In June of 2014, the voters of the Town of Lamoine approved our “No New Pits” amendment to the Building and Land Use Ordinance. The Ames family stated they were faced with expensive care for an aged relative and wished to fund the care from the sale of a 20 acre parcel in Lamoine. According to tax records, the parcel is assessed at $20,000 for which they pay a yearly tax of $206 (2014). They had the parcel for sale at nearly one million dollars because they believed it had from 480,000 to 3,000,000 cubic yards of gravel. The change to our ordinance meant that the land value was closer to the Town’s assessed value of $20,000, hence the lawsuit. The lawsuit was announced just a few days before the vote, perhaps to influence Lamoine voters. However, the referendum passed 450 to 268. This piece of land is still for sale for $990,000 (see MLS#: 1114405 at http://www.mainelistings.com; also see http://www.ellsworthamerican.com/maine-news/lamoine-voters-ko-new-gravel-pits/)
At the Board of Selectmen meeting of December 12, Administrative Assistant Stu Marckoon speculated on the Ames family’s future moves. Stu mentioned the possibility that they may appeal directly to Lamoine voters to either modify our ordinances or rezone their lot from Rural/Agricultural to another zone (probably Development) in which mining would be allowed. It is this course which the Ames Trust has taken rather than pursuing the lawsuit against the Town. In any case, unfortunately the threat of a renewed suit has not disappeared. The attempt to change our Rural/Agricultural zones to Development zones will be the likely strategy of the gravel interests to work around the No New Pits change to our land use ordinance. See land use VS. zone below, from http://www.lamoine-me.gov/Town%20Hall/Ordinances/BLUO061014.pdf
The Friends of Lamoine extends thanks to our Board of Selectmen and Town Administrative Assistant for the actions they have taken to remove this lawsuit threat from our town. Over the past few months, the Town has spent about $3,000 on attorney’s fees devoted to this effort. The battle has been shrouded in mystery until the announcement shortly after 8 PM on December 12, 2014.
Why doesn’t the town tax the gravel pits by the value of the gravel? A $20,000 assessment for a parcel selling for over $900,000?