Three gravel operators in town (Harold MacQuinn, Doug Gott and John Goodwin) have re-instituted a lawsuit against Lamoine, claiming that our gravel ordinance represents a “regulatory taking”. This stems from the March 13, 2013 ordinance change which increased the setback to 100 feet from the former 50 feet. Setback refers to the area between neighboring property lines and the active pit. The change means that gravel cannot be taken from the first 100 feet inside of the property lines. Lamoine voters approved this change not once, but twice. The most recent time was when they rejected the rollback to 50 feet in the Board of Selectmen’s November, 2015 proposed new Gravel Ordinance. Gravel pit owners are therefore stating by their actions that the collective will of Lamoine voters (69% to 31% in the November poll) should be voided by the Hancock County Superior Court.
At the February 11 Board of Selectmen meeting there was little discussion about this development. A motion passed to confer with the town attorney. The discussion was over in two minutes. It appears that the Selectboard wishes to refrain from making any public statement regarding the renewed lawsuit until obtaining legal advice in case it might jeopardize the Town’s position.
In light of this action, it is clear the gravel companies will not let the majority of Lamoine citizens stand between them and maximum profits, preferring to settle the matter in court. It is curious that their earlier strategy was to let Lamoine voters decide. Because the voters decisively rejected their demands, these companies apparently have given up on seeking support from residents and returned now to filing a lawsuit. These non-resident gravel pit owners, whose pit properties pay 2% of our property taxes, are adding to the expenses of the town to defend itself for their “reduced….value” of fifty feet of mined gravel, and in some undefined cases “taking away most of the pit’s commercial value”. They also complain that the current gravel ordinance (passed in 2013 and slightly revised in 2014), “reduces the value of other properties….containing sand and gravel deposits for which permits have not yet been obtained”. Admittedly, they speculated on these properties, but now want Lamoine to pay for what they thought they should get.
The gravel industry is using the source of their wealth (Lamoine’s natural resources) to turn against Lamoine citizens with a lawsuit. We should not be afraid to stand up for our rights to regulate their activity. We should not be afraid to see them in court.