PORTLAND – There will be no delay in the start of a trial on a legal claim that Pike Industries has brought against the city of Westbrook, a judge ruled on Friday.

The decision by Superior Court Chief Justice Thomas E. Humphrey now means that there is greater pressure on Pike, the city and Pike’s residential and business neighbors to settle the legal dispute over Pike’s controversial Spring Street quarry before the trial begins Sept. 13.

The city, Pike and Idexx Laboratories, a biotechnology firm located across the street from Pike in the Five Star Industrial Park, had already spent this summer hammering out a consent agreement with the city that would have let Pike continue to operate its controversial quarry, but with limits on blasting and other restrictions designed to protect Idexx and other neighboring businesses.

The consent agreement, if it had been approved by the City Council and then by Humphrey, would have settled Pike’s lawsuit against the city without a trial.

However, the City Council on Monday, Aug. 30, heard from businesses and residents who argued that the protections in the consent agreement were not sufficient. The council voted to table a decision on the agreement until October, and directed city administrators to go back to the negotiations table and include residents and other businesses in the talks. The council also said the city should ask for a delay in the trial.

The city had already filed a motion in Maine Business and Consumer Court last week asking for such a delay. That motion was supported by Pike and Idexx, but opposed by other business neighbors of Pike – Artel Inc. and Smiling Hill Farm.

Lawyers for Artel and Smiling Hill, interveners in the lawsuit Pike filed against the city, complained in court that they had been excluded from negotiations this summer and told the judge that Pike and the city have had plenty of time to negotiate already.

Artel, which manufactures precise instruments to measure liquids for scientific study, has said seismic waves from blasting by Pike would hinder its ability to do business. It has threatened to move its 55-employee business out of the city if Pike resumes blasting.

Smiling Hill wants to build a 20-acre greenhouse to grow tomatoes and said shock waves and flying rock could threaten the greenhouse.

At a hearing on Friday morning, Sept. 3, Humphrey denied the motion to delay the trial, saying the earliest other date available was Nov. 1, and that he was not sure that giving the parties more time would increase the chances of settling the issue. The judge said it is the goal of the business court to move litigation along expeditiously.

But Humphrey urged all involved to continue to work toward settling the case. He warned all the parties that if the case comes to him to decide, one side or the other would lose. “Not one of you should feel you are without risk,” the judge said.

The city has said that Pike doesn’t have a legal right to operate the Spring Street quarry because Blue Rock, the company Pike bought the quarry from in 2005, didn’t meet conditions of its 1968 quarry permit.

However, Pike is arguing that the city is unfair to deny it the right to operate now when it knowingly let quarrying go on at the site for about four decades.

Mayor Colleen Hilton, who helped broker the proposed consent agreement involving Pike, Idexx and the city, said after Friday’s hearing that efforts to negotiate with all parties are continuing, but that representatives for Smiling Hill, Artel and residents have already failed to show up for one meeting.

Tony Buxton, lead attorney for Pike, said that company has already agreed in the last few days to additional concessions to respond to its neighbors’ concerns, but questioned whether the other parties truly want to negotiate.

The mayor has called a special meeting of the City Council on Wednesday, Sept. 8 to discuss the consent agreement proposal. The meeting is set for 7 p.m. in the Westbrook Middle School auditorium, located at 471 Stroudwater Street.


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