WESTBROOK – Pike Industries has gone to court to appeal the City Council’s decision to rezone the Five Star Industrial Park in a way that would restrict Pike’s operation of its quarry there.
Lawyers for the company filed the appeal in Cumberland County Superior Court on Wednesday to challenge the city’s enactment of the new zoning, which they say would put Pike out of business.
Tony Buxton, a lawyer representing Pike, said the zoning is illegal and conflicts with the city’s comprehensive plan. He said it would prevent Pike from using its property in a way that it believes it has a constitutional right to continue.
“We are asking the court to declare their zoning ordinance null and void and to issue an injunction to prevent the city from enforcing the ordinance,” Buxton said Wednesday. “We’re also asking the court to award us compensation for the lost use of the quarry, which could be hundreds of thousands of dollars or more.”
The appeal comes as Pike and Westbrook officials continue to seek an out-of-court agreement on the operation of the quarry.
The City Council voted 6-0 on June 7 to rezone the park to a manufacturing district, which would limit Pike’s quarrying operation. City officials say the zoning change will lure biotech and precision manufacturing, information technology and financial services to the city.
Idexx Laboratories, a producer of diagnostic products and services and pharmaceuticals for animal care, wants to expand in the industrial park. It has proposed building a $50 million headquarters, but said it will consider building elsewhere if Pike is allowed to expand its quarrying operation.
In May, a task force formed by Mayor Colleen Hilton proposed to the City Council 46 conditions and performance standards to let Pike mine its quarry. The terms include limiting Pike’s hours of operation and the frequency and intensity of its blasting.
Dick Daigle, director of facilities for Idexx, said the company recently suggested revisions to a draft agreement.
“We remain hopeful that an agreement will be reached and all these lawsuits will go away,” Daigle said.
City Administrator Jerre Bryant said city officials hope to reach an agreement with Pike in the next few weeks. “We are very close,” he said.
Wednesday’s court appeal is the latest development in a conflict that has polarized Westbrook’s business community and residents who live near the industrial park, and has cost the city thousands of dollars in legal fees.
The city’s Zoning Board of Appeals ruled in July of 2009 that Pike does not have the right to operate the quarry off Spring Street because its predecessor on the site, Blue Rock Industries, never met conditions the board established in 1968.
Pike appealed that decision to Cumberland County Superior Court.
The city issued a stop-work order on Nov. 7 to prevent Pike from removing stockpiles of crushed rock. The court has rejected Pike’s request to set aside the shutdown order.
A civil trial is scheduled for Sept. 13 on Pike’s claim that quarrying should continue because the city allowed it for years, and even issued permits allowing blasting and construction at the site.
Warren Knight, whose family owns the neighboring Smiling Hill Farm, said he wasn’t surprised that Pike appealed the council’s decision to rezone the industrial park.
“They’re not shy about exploiting the legal system,” he said. “They are suing each and every one of us as citizens. We all pay collectively for this type of a nuisance lawsuit.” Buxton said Pike is eager to reach an agreement with the city. He said it has agreed to the 46 conditions the task force proposed.
He said Pike agreed recently to two conditions involving increased limits on vibrations at the Idexx property line and near television station WPXT, and agreed to traffic limitations.
“We have gone as far as we can go,” Buxton said. “We have been very clear that if we don’t get a consent agreement we will litigate. We’ve also been clear that if there’s a choice between Pike staying in Westbrook or Idexx staying in Westbrook that we are not leaving. We can’t take the rock with us. We don’t have much choice.”
Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at: