AUGUSTA — At the urging of neighbors, city councilors killed a concrete company’s proposal for a zone change to allow it to blast rock at its Civic Center Drive plant.

Councilors and neighbors of the site, including the developers of the multimillion-dollar Central Maine Commerce Center across the street, had expressed fear that blasting would be disruptive and damaging to an area they said is the economic engine for the entire city.

Auburn Concrete sought a zone change that would have allowed it to apply for a mineral extraction permit to blast rock both to create more usable space and provide raw material to make concrete at the Civic Center Drive plant it opened in Augusta in 2011.

However, city councilors Thursday declined to send the proposal to the Planning Board for a recommendation, instead opting to take no action, which essentially kills the proposal.

That’s precisely what some neighbors asked them to do.

“There is a not a person here in favor of this, so how can you people even think of giving a permit, when all the neighbors are against it?” said Joseph Healy, who lives near the concrete plant, at Thursday’s council meeting attended by a handful of neighbors. “You should kill this proposal. Kill it now.”


Lawyer and lobbyist Severin Beliveau, a partner in the firm that owns the Central Maine Commerce Center, which has an entrance directly across Civic Center Drive from the concrete plant, said the commerce center is home not just to offices but also to Maine State Police and federal Homeland Security operations that use costly, sensitive equipment relying on wiring running from Civic Center Drive to the commerce center.

“Anything that could potentially disrupt the services provided to that area could be devastating,” Beliveau said.

He said having a plant blasting in the area is inappropriate and a hindrance as the area is developed with other businesses. He said the prospect of the blasting has become an issue as commerce center officials negotiate with potential new tenants.

Ward 3 Councilor Patrick Paradis, whose ward includes the site, said that part of north Augusta is the engine driving economic development in the city.

“This item, if approved, would be one of the biggest anti-business decisions by this council in decades,” Paradis said.

Joel Cummings, one of three family members who own Auburn Concrete, said Friday they will drop their effort to win permission to blast at the site. Doing so probably will scuttle company plans to build large concrete bridge spans for the logging industry in Augusta, because the site is too small to accommodate that work, without blasting to make more room.


Cummings said Auburn Concrete “absolutely” will continue its regular concrete-making operations at the Augusta plant.

“We’re not going forward” with the blasting proposal, said Cummings, adding that the council’s decision didn’t surprise him. “We’re on to different, more current things. That was more long-term.”

Ward 1 Councilor Michael Byron made a motion to send the issue to the Planning Board for a recommendation, but no other councilor seconded the motion. Byron said he felt the proper process would be to get a recommendation from planners, regardless of how councilors and neighbors initially viewed the project.

“I believe every person looking for a permit or zoning change deserves due process,” Byron said. “Due process is not killing it at this level, even though the charter allows it. Due process is sending this to the professionals (the Planning Board) for their recommendation. I think it’s a darn shame not to allow this business to go through the process and be judged.”

Other councilors said the proposed blasting was clearly incompatible with other uses in the area and already is banned by the current zoning there. Sending the issue to planners would cause needless worry and delay, they said.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

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