WESTBROOK — Emotions ran high Monday night as the City Council weighed sharply opposing views on a proposal that would let Pike Industries continue mining its rock quarry in the Five Star Industrial Park.
After more than two hours of testimony, the council voted 7-0 late Monday to table its vote on the consent agreement reached this month by Pike, Idexx Laboratories and city officials.
More than 125 people packed the public hearing at Westbrook High School as the council considered the consent agreement, which would establish guidelines for Pike’s quarry.
The deal would limit Pike to eight blasts a year, limit the intensity of the explosions and restrict truck traffic to an average of 45 vehicles a day. Pike also agreed to build larger berms, fences and other buffers to reduce the visibility of the quarry. Pike officials estimate it would cost $1 million to make the upgrades.
Jonathan Olson, regional manager for Pike, said the agreement would protect the interests of Pike and Idexx — its neighbor in the industrial park — and the interests of other nearby businesses and residents.
“We’d like to see you vote on this tonight and create a sense of closure on this issue,” he told the council. “I strongly urge you to honor the spirit of compromise that we have all worked so hard to come up with and affirm this consent agreement and allow businesses to keep growing, and growing in the city of Westbrook.”
Kirby Pilcher, owner of Artel, which makes precision measuring instruments in the industrial park, has sharply criticized the agreement. Pilcher has said that if Pike is allowed to blast, Artel will have to move.
“I’m pleased with the decision,” Pilcher said after the vote to table any decision. “I think the City Council wants to be fair. They want to have facts and be proud of what they decide.”
The quarry off Spring Street has been the subject of a years-long battle between Pike, a heavy-construction company, and some of its high-tech neighbors in the industrial park, particularly Idexx and Artel. Neighboring homeowners and Smiling Hill Farm also have been involved in the dispute.
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. City officials then worked with Idexx and Pike to negotiate the consent agreement. Several people who spoke Monday night opposed the agreement and asked the council to table its vote for further consideration.
Tim Bachelder of Spring Street said the agreement lacks some things that residents requested.
“Expanding negotiations will allow us to close some of the loopholes” in the agreement, he said. “Negotiations must be expanded to include designated representatives of all interested parties.”
Josephine Peterson of Oriole Street told the council that she is angry that Hilton and the city’s attorneys approved the proposed consent agreement.
“I don’t think it’s anything to be proud of,” she said. “You left us out. You only thought about what the big businesses wanted.”
Councilors Victor Chau and Paul Emery opposed the agreement.
“It’s imperfect,” said council President Brendan Rielly. “It’s not what any one of us would want if we had the free rein to draft it.”
If it’s ultimately approved by the City Council, the agreement will be submitted to Cumberland County Superior Court for approval. Pike’s court appeal of a zoning board ruling would be dropped.
Idexx officials say they will expand in Westbrook once lawsuit is dissolved.
The civil trial is scheduled to start Sept. 13. The city has already requested a delay.
Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at: [email protected]