WESTBROOK – Just days before a case pitting Pike Industries against the city of Westbrook was to begin in court, the City Council on Wednesday voted to approve a revised settlement agreement intended to end the lawsuit.

The council’s final vote on the agreement, which would allow Pike to resume operating its controversial Spring Street quarry but with restrictions designed to protect neighboring homes and businesses, was 4-2.

The signed consent agreement was then whisked off to a judge in Maine Business and Consumer Court on Thursday morning. According to Tony Buxton, lead attorney for Pike, Superior Court Chief Justice Thomas E. Humphrey then agreed to delay the trial on the case, which had been set for Sept. 13.

The motion to delay the trial was made by the city, Pike and Idexx Laboratories, a biotechnology firm located near the quarry in the Five Star Industrial Park. But it was opposed by two other neighboring businesses, Artel Inc. and Smiling Hill Farm. The farm and Artel and Idexx all are interveners in the lawsuit.

Buxton said the judge set dates later in the month for Artel and Smiling Hill Farm to file written arguments on their positions, and for the filing of responses to their arguments. Artel, which makes instruments for precise measuring of liquids, and Smiling Hill Farm are concerned about the effect of blasting on their businesses.

The judge did not set a date when he will hold a hearing on the issue, Buxton said. However, he said, he expects that the hearing will take place in late September and that the judge would make a decision in early October on whether to accept the consent agreement. “That’s what I would hope for,” Buxton said.

Humphrey last week had refused to extend the Sept. 13 start date of the trial, and had urged the parties in the case to reach an agreement.

The trial would determine whether Pike had a legal right to operate the quarry. The city has determined that quarrying there is illegal because Blue Rock, the company from which Pike bought the quarry in 2005, didn’t meet conditions of its 1968 quarry permit. But Pike filed suit, arguing that the city was unfair to deny it a right to operate now when it had knowingly allowed quarrying at the site for decades.

Humphrey warned the parties that if the case went to trial, one side or the other would prevail. If Pike won, city officials have said, there would be no restrictions on its blasting and other operations at the quarry.

That is why the city hammered out a consent agreement this summer with Pike and Idexx. That agreement called for allowing Pike to operate the quarry but under such restrictions as limiting production blasts to eight times per year.

However, Artel and Smiling Hill Farm and a number of residents of nearby homes complained that they were shut out of negotiations.

So when the consent agreement came before the council on Aug. 30, the council voted unanimously to table the agreement and sent it back for further negotiations.

The council also directed the city to ask for a delay in the start of the trial. But when the judge denied the delay on Sept. 3, that launched a series of fast-paced negotiation meetings, which resulted in the revised consent agreement the council approved Wednesday, Sept. 8.

In that agreement, Pike agreed to a number of further concessions, including a promise to negotiate with residents who want to move about buying their houses at 2010 appraised values. Pike also agreed to limit the number of blasts required to relocate an access road, not to build an asphalt plant on either side of Spring Street and allow Department of Environmental Protection monitoring of the site.

But Artel and Smiling Hill and some residents argued that negotiations were too rushed and the agreement was flawed.

But Mayor Colleen Hilton, who helped broker the agreement along with City Administrator Jerre Bryant, said that everyone had an opportunity to have a say in the agreement and that approving it was the city’s best option. “This is best resolved locally and not in court,” Hilton said.


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