WESTBROOK — The City Council voted Monday night to rezone the Five Star Industrial Park to a manufacturing district, which will restrict Pike Industries’ quarrying operation in the park.
Meanwhile, city officials are working to forge an agreement that includes limiting Pike’s hours of operation, as well as the frequency and intensity of its blasting.
Pike officials say that if they cannot come to an agreement with the city within 30 days, they will sue to challenge the new zoning.
William D. Hagedorn, an attorney representing Pike, told the council before the vote that if it approved the zoning change, the company would file a legal challenge in Superior Court. He said the ordinance violates state and federal law and is a clear instance of illegal reverse spot zoning.
“Pike must, and will, do everything in its power to secure its rights to profitably operate the quarry,” Hagedorn said during the public hearing before the vote.
Jonathan Olson, Pike’s regional manager, told the council that a consent agreement is the only vehicle to ensure an end to the litigation.
He said the company would comply with the conditions of any agreement, and the quarry would be run as the steering committee formed by the city to negotiate with Pike envisioned.
“Fortunately, rock is not like milk. It doesn’t go bad, and will only get more valuable over time,” Olson said. “Pike is in this for the long haul.”
Two residents who live near Pike, in the Birdland neighborhood, spoke in favor of rezoning the park.
Tim Bachelder of Spring Street said rezoning the park would be in the best interest of the city.
“I believe that rezoning will provide some structure to eliminate a whole host of incompatible uses at the park that are currently legal in this zone,” he said.
After the public hearing, the council went into executive session to discuss its pending litigation with Pike.
A civil trial is scheduled for 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.
The council’s executive session lasted about 15 minutes, then councilors voted 6-0 to rezone the industrial park. Councilor Paul Emery did not attend the meeting.
Councilor Michael Foley said after the meeting that the council and the city want to move forward in the direction the park has been going, enticing high-tech industries to move to and expand in the park.
Warren Knight, whose family owns nearby Smiling Hill Farm, said after the meeting that he’s pleased the council decided to rezone the park.
“It will prohibit refineries and extractive industries and other obnoxious uses that will prohibit the area from growing,” Knight said. “I’m also disappointed Pike threatened continued legal action.”
Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at: [email protected]