RANGELEY — The Rangeley Planning Board has cleared the way for a controversial concrete batch plant in the town’s Cemetery Hill commercial subdivision after months of challenges to the plan and new agreements from the company to reduce the facility’s effect on the area.

After a contentious three-hour meeting Wednesday in which board members heard again from the plan’s opponents, the board agreed to issue M&H Construction a conditional use permit in exchange for several changes to the plan to address opponents’ concerns.

M&H agreed to plant trees along Route 4 to block the plant from view of the Rangeley Lakes National Scenic Highway, to pave the driveway partially, and to use shale or gravel for ground cover to reduce dust kicked up by trucks driving into and out of the site. The company also agreed to wash its trucks at an alternate site to avoid potential run-off to nearby Hatchery Brook and Rangeley Lake, move the plant’s start time from 6 to 7 a.m., and grade the property to capture groundwater and runoff in a sediment pond, among other concessions.

On Thursday, M&H general manager Kenneth Haley said he was waiting to receive a letter from the town’s fire chief certifying the department is able to reach the concrete plant in the event of a fire. Haley said once he received the letter, he expected the code enforcement officer to issue the permit for the project.

During the meeting, some of the plan’s opponents pushed for board members Dennis Muzzy and Rebekah Carmichael to recuse themselves from the proceedings, citing potential conflicts of interest. According to opponents, Muzzy lives next door to M&H co-owner David Joe Haley and regularly dines at a restaurant owned by Kenneth Haley and his family. Opponents also say Carmichael lives near the town’s industrial zone, where they wanted M&H to relocate the plant.

Muzzy and Carmichael declined to rescuse themselves from the board vote.

Opponents also questioned whether board member Luke Siros was positioned to hear the case after missing an earlier public hearing on the project, but Siros assured those present that he had acquainted himself with the specifics of the case. Board member Brian Roy recused himself earlier on.

Judith Morton, one of the plant’s opponents who lives less than 500 feet from the proposed Cemetery Hill site, expressed her disappointment with the Planning Board’s handling of the issue, saying that when she was a board member, she had recused herself voluntarily when her brother came before the board with business despite not having any financial stake in his plans.

Morton also cited legal precedent for opponent arguments that concrete plants process raw materials, qualifying them under the town’s definition of heavy industrial use, which is prohibited in Rangeley’s commercial zones.

“Numerous times in our state courts it has been determined to be (raw materials). So you know we’re extremely disappointed that our town officials have failed to recognize that,” Morton said.

David Lourie, an attorney representing Morton, her husband and a group of neighbors opposed to the plant, made similar arguments to the Zoning Board of Appeals last week to no avail.

Morton declined to say if she and the neighbor group would be pursuing further legal action, saying they are still considering their next steps.

Kate McCormick — 861-9218

[email protected]

Twitter: @KateRMcCormick

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