AUGUSTA — The owner of a pit where a controversial paving plant will be forced to close because of a zoning change approved by city councilors Thursday said Friday he does not plan to sue the city.

But officials of the R.C. & Sons Paving plant, which operated out of the pit, said they have not ruled out a lawsuit, because they feel the city’s process for adopting the new rules was unfair and based on emotions more than facts.

A plant official Friday said today will likely be the last day the plant operates at its West River Road site and will search over the winter for a more “pro-business” community in central Maine to relocate to.

Steve McGee, owner of West Gardiner-based McGee Construction — the firm that owns the pit — said he doesn’t believe the process was fair, either. But he doesn’t plan to contest the decision in court.

“I just feel it’s time to stop fighting about it,” McGee said Friday, the day after councilors adopted zoning rules that force the paving operation to close or move when its license expires in May. “It has been a long time. People are passionate they want it out of there. I don’t agree with them. But I do respect them, and their point of view. You get to a point … you hate the bitterness.”

Mayor William Stokes said McGee talked to him and several city councilors after Thursday’s meeting.

Advertisement

“He was quite gracious after the meeting,” Stokes said of McGee. “He said there won’t be a lawsuit. I think that is good news. We all need to move on.”

Residents of the Grandview neighborhood off West River Road have complained of odor and other problems, such as dust, connected to the paving plant since in opened in 2009. The new rules were enacted in response to those complaints.

Mike Cloutier, vice president of Lewiston-based R.C. & Sons Paving, said the company has not yet decided whether to pursue a lawsuit to try to keep functioning at the site.

Cloutier said the paving season is coming to an end and anticipated today would be the plant’s last day in operation.

He said the firm is looking to relocate the plant elsewhere in central Maine and reopen for business when the paving season gets under way again next summer.

He said it will move to “a place that is pro-business.”

Advertisement

“We’ve got a few irons in the fire.”

City officials have said there are other areas in the city where a paving plant could operate and not be in violation of the new zoning rules, which bans asphalt plants within 2,500 feet of residences.

McGee, however, disagrees.

“There’s nothing in the city of Augusta,” he said. “Every site poses some kind of a problem.”

Stokes said city officials “worked extraordinarily hard to try to find a way to keep (R.C. & Sons) in business but also make sure the people of Grandview have the peaceful enjoyment of their properties. Unfortunately, it hasn’t come to that.”

Cloutier and McGee said they met with Gov. Paul LePage earlier this year to ask for help in keeping the plant in business.

Advertisement

Although city officials offered to help the firm find a new location in Augusta, Cloutier said the city did not seem as helpful when he tried to take it up on the offer. City officials said there was no money available to help the firm move, according to Cloutier.

Cloutier said the plant provides between 15 and 20 jobs, including three workers at the plant itself, a nine-person paving crew, two lab workers and work for several owner-operator truck drivers.

Cloutier said some city councilors were willing to listen to him, but others seemed determined to shut the plant down.

He said state officials told him the Augusta plant was the most scrutinized plant they’d ever seen. Cloutier said the company took steps to reduce odor and was prepared to take more.

“We hired an expert and did multiple things to appease the neighborhood,” Cloutier said. “We presented facts. But the vote wasn’t on facts and data. At the end of the day, people weren’t interested in facts, they were interested in emotions.”

Grandview resident Scott Snedden said councilors allowed R.C. & Sons plenty of time this paving season to try ways to ease the smell.

“You’ve been incredibly patient in trying to find something that would work out,” he told councilors Thursday. “It didn’t. It’s there. We smell it. And it’s not going to go away as long as the plant is there.”

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.