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Pike pact wins final council OK in Westbrook

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Posted: Thursday, October 18, 2012 8:55 am

WESTBROOK – The Westbrook City Council on Monday approved amendments to its zoning ordinance that will allow Pike Industries to excavate its quarry on Spring Street pending review of the court.

The amendments were approved, following a review by the Planning Board and City Council, with a 4-1 vote, with Ward 2 Councilor Victor Chau as the lone vote against. Councilor Dotty Aube and Councilor Paul Emery were each absent for the vote.

The amendments are considered to be the remedy to a Maine Superior Court ruling in August partially approving the consent agreement between Pike Industries and the city of Westbrook with regards to the excavation of the Spring Street quarry. 

Judge Thomas Humphrey had previously granted preliminary approval of the consent agreement between involved parties on the condition that Westbrook amend its zoning ordinance to contain performance standards for Pike. The amended ordinance will now be sent to the Maine Superior Court and reviewed with the consent agreement for final approval.

“Then,” said City Administrator Jerre Bryant, “we will go from there based on the result. There isn’t a date set for that yet.”

Pike and its surrounding neighbors have been in dispute since 2009, when the company increased its operations in the quarry. The excavation process requires blasting, heavy equipment and machinery that produces dust, noise and vibrations, all of which raised concerns among neighbors of the site.

A threat by Idexx Laboratories to cancel plans to build a $50 million headquarters facility brought the issue front and center and led to the city to step in to mediate an agreement hammered out between lawyers from both companies.

Pike and Idexx essentially ended their conflict with the complex consent agreement, though other neighbors and businesses near the quarry, such as Smiling Farms and Artel, remain concerned about the operation at the quarry, as well as the manner in which the consent agreement was drafted.

In response the court ruling in August, David Bertoni, a Lewiston attorney representing Artel, said this client was upset at what he called “back-room dealings” that led to the agreement involving Pike, Idexx and the city.

“What Artel really wanted was to go through the (public) process,” he said.

Following the court ruling, the amendments to the zoning ordinance were brought to first reading on Oct. 1, where residents’ concerns were aired about murky language and the specifics of the performance standards. Those concerns remain among many of the quarry’s detractors, but councilors on Monday said that there will always be aspects each party is unhappy with, and the product sitting before them was the best response they could create to fix the situation.

“I think Pike will be a good neighbor,” Ward 5 Councilor Mike Sanphy said following the meeting. “At first I thought there would be a winner and a loser and one would pack up and leave after. I didn’t want to lose those jobs, but the city needed to be protected, as well. The jobs are still here and the city is protected with this ordinance.” 

Sanphy commended Mayor Colleen Hilton for her efforts to solve the problem.

“Mayor Hilton deserves a lot of credit on this one,” said Sanphy. “She wanted to reach a compromise between everyone involved and to her credit everyone involved reached a deal that covers all ends as fairly as possible.” 

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