PORTLAND — A judge has denied Pike Industries’ request to put its court case on hold while it continues to work with Westbrook officials to find a compromise to operate its quarry.

Justice Thomas Humphrey met Thursday in Cumberland County Superior Court with lawyers representing the city and businesses in and around its Five Star Industrial Park.

Sigmund Schutz, a lawyer representing Pike, asked Humphrey for more time to seek an agreement allowing Pike to operate its quarry off Spring Street.

“We have an extraordinary interest in resolving this,” Schutz said. “I don’t suggest that this litigation be slowed down in any way. We think this is the fastest way to bring this to a close.”

William Plouffe, the attorney representing Idexx Laboratories, objected to Pike’s request. Attorneys for Smiling Hill Farm and Artel echoed Plouffe’s sentiments. “Idexx needs to make some business decisions whether to expand or not expand,” Plouffe said.

Humphrey scheduled a civil trial for Sept. 13 on the company’s request for a ruling that work at its quarry is exempt from any new zoning restrictions.

“While I don’t want to see the court process interfere with good substantial efforts and opportunities to resolve this issue, we need targets for everyone to focus on their businesses,” he said.

Humphrey will rule Sept. 13 on Pike’s claim that the quarrying is an ongoing use because the city has allowed it to continue, and even issued permits allowing blasting and construction at the site. The trial will last for about five days, with no jury.

A task force that was formed to find a way to let high-tech industries coexist with the rock quarry failed to reach an agreement between Pike and Idexx.

At a City Council meeting May 3, the task force proposed conditions and performance standards to let Pike mine its quarry, including limiting its hours of operation and the frequency and intensity of its blasting.

Idexx says it wants to create 500 jobs with a $50 million expansion of its headquarters, a half-mile from the quarry, but only if the industrial park where both companies operate is rezoned to limit Pike’s ability to blast and crush rock.

Dick Daigle, director of facilities for Idexx, said he was pleased with Humphrey’s decision to set a trial date.

“The city is still pursuing the proposed consent agreement with the parties,” Daigle said after the meeting. “With the court date set, it gives some motivation to get this resolved.”

Tony Buxton, another lawyer representing Pike, said the company is close to reaching an agreement with the city.

“If they want to litigate the case, then we will litigate the case,” he said. “We’re confident we can win. We understand Idexx wants to build its building.

Pike would be happy to see that happen, but the wastefulness of litigation needs to be fully understood. If we lose this court case, we have committed and will appeal all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

 

Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

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