December 11, 2012

Business court rejects Westbrook quarry decree

Pike Industries will have to amend its agreement with Idexx Laboratories and the city, so it doesn't contradict with Westbrook's zoning ordinance.

By Leslie Bridgers
Staff Writer

WESTBROOK — The years-long legal battle over Pike Industries' Spring Street quarry isn't over yet.

click image to enlarge

Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer: Pike Industries' Spring Street quarry in the city of Westbrook. Photographed on Monday, November 16, 2009.

The Maine Business and Consumer Court ruled Tuesday that a consent agreement formed in 2010 among Pike, Idexx and the city conflicts with a newly adopted zoning ordinance regulating the use of the quarry.

The difference between the two documents is that each says it carries more weight than the other, according to a decision by Chief Justice Thomas Humphrey.

The consent decree was formed in 2010, after Idexx raised concerns about Pike's right to quarry there. Both companies were planning expansions of their neighboring operations. The agreement put limits on noise, vibrations and other effects of blasting and transporting rock in the Westbrook quarry.

But other nearby businesses, Artel Inc. and Smiling Hill Farm, were not happy with the consent agreement or the fact that they were left out of negotiating it. They appealed the agreement to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, which ruled in June that the city would have to enact a zoning ordinance or contract zone in order to enforce the standards laid out in the consent decree.

The supreme court, at that time, gave preliminary approval of the consent decree, on the condition that Pike pursue the zoning amendment. The city adopted a zoning ordinance for Pike's property in October.

Artel argued to the business court that there were discrepancies between the consent decree and the city's zoning ordinance. Pike said the differences were inconsequential.

Although the court agreed that most of the differences were not significant, it found that a provision in the consent decree contradicted with the zoning ordinance and, because of that, did not approve the agreement.

The provision in question says the consent decree "is intended to and will supersede and control over any different or conflicting provisions of the Westbrook Code of Ordinances now existing and hereafter enacted" and that if there is a conflict with "any state or federal requirements, the stricter provision shall control."

The city's new zoning ordinance, however, says its "performance and use standards are meant to control over any different, conflicting, or additional performance and use standards."

In its ruling, the court said the consent decree could be amended and presented again to the court. It said it would schedule a conference next year about how to proceed.

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