– MELANIE CREAMER
WESTBROOK – The city moved one step closer to rezoning its Five Star Industrial Park on Monday as the City Council approved a recommendation to call it a Manufacturing District.
A task force that was formed to find a way to let high-tech industries coexist with a rock quarry recommended the change. At Monday’s meeting, it proposed to the City Council a list of conditions and performance standards to let Pike Industries mine its quarry in the industrial park off Spring Street.
The proposed terms of the agreement include limiting Pike’s hours of operation, and the frequency and intensity of its blasting.
Mayor Colleen Hilton acknowledged that the task force could not forge an agreement between Pike and neighboring businesses and residents who oppose its operation. Hilton asked the council for more time to work with Pike, Idexx Laboratories and other businesses to reach agreement.
The council voted 6-1 to approve the recommendations for proposed zoning changes. Councilor Paul Emery cast the dissenting vote. The council will give its second reading to the proposal on June 7 and hold a public hearing on the proposed zoning ordinance.
The stakes are high for businesses in the industrial park. Pike estimates there’s enough rock in the quarry to last another 80 years, making it worth $600 million.
Idexx Laboratories wants to expand in Westbrook by adding a $50 million office building and creating 500 jobs, which would bring its work force to more than 2,000.
Artel, a manufacturer of measuring equipment, also wants to expand its business but says it will have to leave if Pike is allowed to blast.
The task force decided last week to recommend limiting Pike Industries to eight blasts a year, 12 fewer than Pike had proposed.
Four residents spoke on the issue during the public hearing. Pam Creamer, who lives in the Birdland neighborhood, asked city councilors to stop Pike from blasting.
“It diminishes the quality of life and the worth and condition of properties,” Creamer said. “It befouls, disfigures, and will eventually degrade the environment and ecology of the area.”
Jonathan Ayers, president and CEO of Idexx, said after the meeting that he was pleased that the council accepted the recommendations to rezone the park.
Councilor John O’Hara, who served on the committee and did not approve its recommendation, voted Monday to approve the proposal for a Manufacturing District.
“We all have a vested interest in what happens,” O’Hara said. “For the neighbors, this is your backyard. This is your bread and butter.”
Also Monday, the task force proposed the development of a citywide quarry ordinance that identifies performance standards for all quarries in the city.
Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at: