AUGUSTA — What city officials describe as a compromise aimed at solving ongoing problems between quarry operators blasting rock for use in construction and their neighbors who say those blasts damage their homes and disrupt their lives is up for discussion Thursday.

The controversial changes to blasting regulations were proposed in response to resident’s complaints about blasting and the observations of a city staff member who described as startling a blast he observed from inside a home near a West River Road quarry.

Last month city councilors proposed to reduce the standard for allowable blasts in rock-production quarries to just 15 percent of the current standards, which the two quarry owners in the city — Steve McGee, of McGee Construction, and Peter Quirion, of Quirion Construction — said would require blasts to be so small it wouldn’t be feasible for them to continue operating.

Last week city councilors proposed, instead, to make no changes to the performance standards regulating blasting, which are based upon ground vibration and particle velocity measurements, and instead cut the number of blasts allowed in each quarry in the city to about half the blasts they’re allowed to have under their current licenses.

McGee said last week that, too, would make it impossible for that part of his business to be financially viable.

City councilors said the change was made to try to appease neighbors of quarry operations while also allowing blasting to continue at the currently allowed levels, but less frequently.


“What we’re proposing is a compromise,” At-large City Councilor Jeffrey Bilodeau said. “This language change (was proposed) after it was pointed out by both pit owners the language presented before would shut down both pits. So the goal was to forge some compromise between neighbors and pit operations, to allow blasts in quarries to continue, at the levels they currently have. And (it) potentially provides the neighborhood with some relief, though maybe not as much as they want.”

Currently, the city’s two quarry operators, which are on West River Road, are allowed a specific number of blasts per year in their licenses. McGee Construction owner Steve McGee said he’s licensed to have 10 blasts a year, while Quirion is licensed for 12 blasts a year.

The new proposal would reduce each to six blasts per year. Matt Nazar, city development director, said Tuesday that Quirion has two quarry operations licensed by the state, but the city has them licensed as one operation. So ultimately, he could be allowed either six or 12 blasts, depending on how the licensing is interpreted, as either one or two operations.

The latest proposed changes are up for discussion by councilors Thursday and could go to a final vote Dec. 15.

Councilors also are scheduled Thursday to discuss enacting a 180-daymoratorium on recreational marijuana businesses, such as retail shops and marijuana social clubs, in response to the Nov. 8 passage of a statewide referendum legalizing recreational marijuana. The state vote passed by 4,073 votes is the subject of a recount, which began Monday in Augusta.

City Manager William Bridgeo said he asked Stephen Langsdorf, city attorney, to prepare a draft recreational marijuana ordinance for councilors to consider adopting. If approved, the temporary ban would give the city time to consider making zoning changes to regulate new marijuana businesses before they apply for a permit in the absence of city rules. He said the moratorium would be retroactive to the Nov. 8 vote. He said many Maine municipalities are considering or adopting similar moratoriums.


Councilors are scheduled to meet at 6:30 p.m. in the council chamber at Augusta City Center.

Councilors also are scheduled to discuss changes to the city’s zoning rules about meal centers and food pantries, plans for the upcoming Hartford Fire Station renovation project, and discontinuing St. Andrews Way.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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