A group of residents in the Birdland neighborhood of Westbrook sued the city on Thursday, asking a judge to invalidate a proposed consent agreement that would allow Pike Industries to mine its rock quarry off Spring Street.

The lawsuit, filed in Cumberland County Superior Court, contends that the agreement approved by the City Council on Sept. 8 creates a “spot zone” for Pike, violating the city’s zoning ordinance and a related zoning enabling act.

David Lourie, the lawyer who represents the Birdland Neighborhood Alliance, said in an interview that the city effectively carved out a contract zone for Pike because the company had sued to contest a Zoning Board of Appeals ruling against the use of the quarry.

“The neighbors of Birdland are very angry that their interests have been superseded by the interests of the City Council in getting rid of the lawsuit that was brought by Pike against the city for enforcing its zoning,” Lourie said.

City Solicitor Bill Dale said the residents’ case lacks merit.

“I don’t believe the neighborhood corporation has a standing to try and second-guess the City Council’s decision on what terms on which to settle litigation matters,” Dale said.

Pike sued the city in August 2009, after the zoning board ruled that the company didn’t have the right to operate the quarry. The board ruled that Pike’s predecessor, Blue Rock Industries, never met conditions the board set for the site in 1968.

The quarry is in the Five Star Industrial Park. Other tenants of the park, notably Idexx Laboratories, a manufacturer of veterinary products, have intervened in the lawsuit and pressured the city not to approve the quarry operation.

The nearby Birdland neighborhood includes a subdivision where streets are named after birds.

Pike, Idexx and Birdland residents were included in a task force that Mayor Colleen Hilton formed in February to broker a compromise to allow Pike to operate on a limited basis. The task force held public meetings to hear concerns relating to Pike’s operation.

Hilton met with city officials and representatives of Pike and Idexx to finalize the consent agreement. The council tabled a vote on the agreement Aug. 30 after residents and business representatives said they felt they had not been heard in the process.

A week later, the council approved the agreement. It would limit Pike to eight blasts a year, cap the intensity of the explosions and restrict truck traffic to an average of 45 vehicles a day. It also would prevent Pike from running an asphalt or concrete plant at a nearby maintenance facility.

The agreement needs final approval from Justice Thomas Humphrey, who is presiding over the Pike lawsuit in Cumberland County Superior Court. If the judge approves, Pike has agreed to drop the lawsuit.

Lourie has asked that the neighborhood group’s lawsuit be consolidated with Pike’s lawsuit against the city.

“It shouldn’t slow anything down,” Lourie said. “It should derail what is going on — which is an attempt to circumvent all the protections in the zoning enabling act to do with contract zoning.”

The neighborhood group, a nonprofit formed by residents who live near the quarry, says the agreement is flawed and doesn’t protect their interests.

“We feel the council is out of line to consider passing this agreement,” said Gary Swanson of Oriole Street. “As a neighborhood, we are exercising what rights we have left.”

City Administrator Jerre Bryant said the Birdland residents were given many opportunities to help develop the consent agreement.

“Most of the elements of the agreement were in response to issues and concerns from the neighbors regarding noise, dust and traffic,” Bryant said. “The issue they raised has been reviewed by our legal counsel. The council was within their rights to enter into the consent agreement.”

 

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

[email protected]