AUGUSTA — City councilors are scheduled to consider Thursday what to do with a request for a zone change that could allow rock blasting at a Civic Center Drive concrete plant.

The proposal from Auburn Concrete to change the zoning at its business, which is across the street from the Central Maine Commerce Center, would allow the firm to seek a mineral extraction permit from the city so it could blast rock both for use in making concrete and to level the site to create more usable space.

However, neighbors, which include the MaineGeneral Musculoskeletal Center directly across Civic Center Drive from the concrete plant, already have expressed concern about the potential blasting’s impact on their properties and their peace and quiet, as well as that of their employees and clients.

“We’re very concerned, not only about the existing (Musculoskeletal Center) building, but also our new regional hospital,” Paul Stein, chief operating officer for MaineGeneral, told city councilors while discussing the proposal last week.

The MaineGeneral Musculoskeletal Center building is owned by the developers of Central Maine Commerce Center and is home to Augusta Family Medicine, Augusta Orthopedic Associates, express care, occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, sports medicine, workplace health and other services.

Also, MaineGeneral is building a $312 million regional hospital next to the Alfond Center for Cancer Care, which is off Old Belgrade Road and through the woods from the concrete plant.
Ken Smith, technical supervisor for Maine Drilling and Blasting, the company that would do the blasting for the project, said his company would design blasts to be small enough so they would not cause damage to neighboring properties. He said the firm has worked right next to hospital buildings before, including work next to Massachusetts General Hospital, which included blasts taking place as surgery went on next door.

Thursday councilors will consider whether to refer the proposed request for a zone change to allow blasting to the Planning Board for a recommendation. Councilors have the final say on zone changes, but generally they refer most zoning proposals to the Planning Board for a recommendation before deciding.

Councilor Michael Byron, sponsor of the proposed order to send the issue to the Planning Board, said of the board, “They’re the professionals. It’s not our job, now, to wrestle with the legitimate concerns of the neighborhood and legitimate desire of the business to grow.”

Councilors are scheduled to consider the issue at their meeting Thursday, which begins at 6:30 in council chambers at Augusta City Center.

Councilors are also scheduled to:
• consider appropriating $9,910 from the city’s unassigned fund balance to help reopen Bicentennial Nature Park this summer;
• consider setting a public hearing on the proposed city and school budget for 6:30 p.m. May 23 in council chambers and;
• consider authorizing local matching funds and allowing City Manager William Bridgeo to submit an application for a federal grant to provide two additional police officers for three years.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647
[email protected]