The Westbrook City Council gets its crack at a high-stakes zoning fight tonight between two important local companies.

The dispute between Idexx and Pike Industries over whether Pike should continue to blast and quarry rock from the Five Star Industrial Park site on Spring Street is an issue that a lot of people care a lot about. Pike claims to have hundreds of millions of dollars worth of high-quality rock it can remove from the site and sell as paving material. Idexx has a $50 million corporate headquarters project on hold, waiting for assurances about what its neighbor will be doing on the site.

Other businesses have promised to move out if Pike continues any level of quarrying activity. Pike says too-tight restrictions would put it out of business. How much of this is accurate and how much is jockeying for position is still unknown. But enough is known to give city leaders a clear idea of where they should want to end up, if not a clear map of how to get there.

A compromise is clearly in everyone’s best interest — the city’s, the companies’ and the city’s residents’. If there is a way to resolve this issue outside a courtroom, where one side or the other emerges as the absolute winner, Westbrook will be able to continue collecting taxes from most if not all of the businesses, which will be able to continue their endeavors, creating jobs and generating revenue.

The city has so far handled the matter correctly by putting the issue before a steering committee, which reached a recommendation Wednesday to allow Pike to continue to mine the quarry, but at a much lower level than it had requested.

That may not be low enough for Idexx, but company officials have said that it is uncertainty about the industrial park’s future as much as the actual impact of Pike’s blasting that is making it hesitant to build its headquarters. It may be willing to tolerate more than it has so far let on in order to get that clarity.

If the city cannot strike a deal, the matter will likely be decided in court. Even if Pike loses, a long period of litigation could result in a lost opportunity for Westbrook to continue to attract businesses like Idexx that have the prize of its economic development work. A compromise is in everyone’s interest, but there is no telling if there is enough middle ground to make one.


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