Ellsworth American Letter 10.14.15

This letter to the editor was in the Ellsworth American‘s October 14 edition. Please support our local newspaper. We reprint it here with the permission of the author.


On November 3, the voters of Lamoine will vote to accept or to reject a Lamoine Gravel Extraction Ordinance proposed by the town’s Selectmen. I urge the voters of Lamoine to reject the proposed ordinance by voting No.

The Selectmen’s proposal represents both a concession to the demands of the gravel industry that operates in Lamoine and a rejection of what Lamoine voters themselves had previously approved. The 2013 Gravel Ordinance, approved at Town Meeting 2013 and amended in 2014, had increased the gravel pit basic setback from neighboring properties from 50 feet to 100 feet, required written permission of an abutter to excavate within 50 feet of a boundary, and prohibited any excavation closer than 50 feet.   The Selectmen’s proposal reduces the basic setback from 100 feet to 50 feet and permits extraction as close as 10 feet to an abutting property if the neighbor is willing.

Lamoine selectmen were under great pressure from the gravel industry to recommend the reduction in setbacks. Following the voters’ adoption of the 2013 Lamoine Gravel Ordinance, the four large out-of-town companies, which operate all but three of Lamoine’s 20+ pits, had sued the Town of Lamoine, claiming that the increases in setbacks amount to a ‘taking’ of their land. The record is clear that in response to the lawsuit, Selectmen agreed to organize a work group to ‘deal with the ordinance’ as a way to have the lawsuit withdrawn. Indeed, at the Jan 3, 2014 meeting of the Selectmen, Edmund Bearor, the gravel operators’ attorney, acknowledged that the lawsuit had been withdrawn on the condition that the Selectmen would appoint a task force.

The work group presented its final report to the Selectmen in June 2014 without any recommendation to reduce the setbacks enacted in the 2013 ordinance. Among those who had been appointed to the work group by the Selectmen was Ellsworth surveyor Stephen Salsbury who was also the designated agent of the four gravel companies that had sued the town. Obviously frustrated at the failure of the work group to recommend reductions in the setbacks, Salsbury presented a strongly worded June 15, 2015 memo to the Selectmen, stating “My clients urge you to return to the setback language that existed prior to the changes made in 2013 and place the issue to the voters without further delay. This is one issue where my clients and I feel the use of their lands were [sic] unjustly taken and time is running out before they have to take legal actions to protect their rights and interests.”   The threat of another lawsuit by the gravel companies was thereby made to the Selectmen. At their September 10, 2015 meeting, the Selectmen voted to include the setbacks requested by the gravel operators in their proposed ordinance.

I urge the voters to Lamoine to stand firm and to reject the Selectmen’s proposal.


John Holt


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