WESTBROOK – A special committee began its search for a compromise Friday in a dispute over Pike Industries’ efforts to operate a quarry in the city’s Five Star Industrial Park.

Some residents remain doubtful of the city’s efforts.

The Spring Street Quarry/Industrial Zone Steering Committee will meet with residents and businesses to identify concerns about Pike’s quarry operation and opinions on future growth management of the area through zoning.

The panel will then craft a recommendation on the future use of the park and present it to the City Council on May 3.

City Administrator Jerre Bryant said the goal is to find a reasonable solution that maintains the city’s vision for the park as a center for technology and research-and-development companies but allows existing businesses to continue operating.

”Is there guaranteed success? Absolutely not,” Bryant said at the meeting. ”It will be challenging.”

The panel will tackle a dispute that has polarized two of the city’s largest taxpayers: Pike Industries, a paving and construction company, and Idexx Laboratories, a biotechnology company.

Idexx and Artel Inc. have been leading opponents of Pike’s plan to move its operations from a depleted quarry on Main Street to its quarry in the industrial park on Spring Street.

The city has proposed rezoning the park from heavy industrial to light manufacturing uses, which would effectively shut down the quarry.

At the request of Mayor Colleen Hilton, the council postponed any decision on the rezoning Feb. 1 and agreed to the effort to seek a compromise.

Former Mayor Bruce Chuluda, who lives across Spring Street from Pike and serves on the committee, has been an outspoken supporter of rezoning the park.

On Friday, he raised concerns about residents feeling comfortable to speak at public meetings.

”I understand what you are trying to achieve,” Chuluda said. ”I just don’t know if that’s what you will achieve.”

About 10 members of the public attended the meeting, including George Rodrigues, a senior scientist at Artel; John Koris, Pike’s environmental manager; and Warren Knight, who owns Smiling Hill Farm.

Knight also questioned whether residents will be willing to speak up.

He told the committee that he was served with a subpoena after a Zoning Board of Appeals public hearing.

”That had a stifling effect on me.”

Bryant said the meetings are not public hearings and the dialogue will be different from that at previous city proceedings on the Pike issue.

”There is no way to stop someone suing,” Bryant noted. ”We can’t change the Constitution.”

City Councilor Victor Chau, whose district encompasses the industrial park, has been encouraging residents to participate in the meetings.

”I’ve been going door to door, including yours,” Chau said, referring to Chuluda.

”I feel (residents) will open up more. The more input we have, the better.”

Hilton said she plans to bring a list of about 15 concerns expressed by residents at a public hearing on Feb. 1.

The City Council will decide on March 1 whether to hire Pamela Plumb, a professional facilitator, to help the committee resolve the longstanding dispute.

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