It will be up to the recently elected city councilors to decide whether to kill Pike Industries’ expansion plans.

A public hearing in front of the council had been scheduled for Dec. 7, which meant the current councilors would have decided on the rezoning of the land from industrial to light manufacturing.

However, just before representatives from Pike planned to present a letter at City Hall Tuesday requesting the public hearing be pushed back, City Administrator Jerre Bryant notified the councilors that he had rescheduled the hearing for Feb. 1.

Bryant said that, considering the contentiousness of the issue, the council would not likely come to a conclusion within the month of December, forcing the new members – who will be inaugurated in January – to take up the issue halfway through the process and make a decision.

“What we wanted to avoid was having part of the process with the new council and part of the process with the current council,” Bryant said Tuesday. “I didn’t want to box ourselves in to try to make it happen in two meetings.”

Of the seven city councilors, five are incumbents. The newcomers are Democrats Victor Chau and Paul Emery, who will represent wards 2 and 3, respectively, starting Jan. 4.

Bill Hagedorn, an attorney for Pike, said the company was satisfied with the new public hearing date.

“That’s what we were hoping for was a full and thoughtful consideration of the issue,” said Hagedorn, who believed it would be better for the new council make the ruling.

“They’re going to be the ones living with the decision,” he said.

Dick Daigle, facilities director for Idexx, a leader in the opposition to Pike’s expansion, said it makes little difference to his company when the hearing is held.

“We still believe the city will ultimately realize the importance of the rezoning for the future of development within the city,” Daigle said. “It’s just a matter of timing.”

At the February hearing, councilors will be taking their first hard look at one of the most heated issues to face Westbrook in recent years.

It started with Pike’s proposal to build an asphalt plant at its Spring Street quarry. Idexx came forward in opposition to that expansion, threatening to halt its own expansion plans if Pike were allowed to build the asphalt plant.

Mayor Bruce Chuluda responded with the proposal to rezone the industrial park, and Pike’s property, to light manufacturing, which would prevent Pike from being able to expand.

At the same time, Idexx and other neighboring business and residents, which formed a group called Westbrook Works, have claimed that Pike doesn’t have a grandfathered right to operate on Spring Street at all. That matter is currently being contested in court.

Meanwhile, the city has moved forward with the process of rezoning the land. Last week, the Planning Board recommended that the council go through with the zone change. However, even if the council upholds that decision, Hagedorn said the city would likely face another lawsuit before a final decision about Pike’s future is made.

“If the zone were to be changed, it’s not the end of the story,” Hagedorn said.


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