AUGUSTA — Planning Board members voted Tuesday evening to delay action on McGee Construction’s mineral extraction license renewal to give themselves time to consult with a blasting expert and to experience a blast at the controversial quarry site for themselves Wednesday afternoon.

McGee’s license to blast rock at the company’s pit between West River Road and the Kennebec River will be extended indefinitely as the board considers his application for another five-year renewal.

About half the board members said Tuesday they wanted to attend a blast at the site, which was already scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.

City Attorney Stephen Langsdorf said board members aren’t expected to discuss the blast Wednesday, simply have a chance to witness it for themselves. It will still, however, be a public meeting and is officially scheduled to take place beginning at 12:45 p.m. Wednesday, at the end of Edwards Street in the Grandview neighborhood, which is adjacent to McGee’s pit.

Board members also voted to delay consideration of McGee’s renewal until they have time to hire an expert, at McGee’s expense, to study blasting at the site, at a cost estimated at $9,000.

“Until we have an expert opinion, I don’t have enough knowledge about what is creating a problem,” said Peter Pare, board member.


McGee is one of only two mineral extraction license-holders who are allowed to use blasting to free up rock in Augusta. The other, Quirion Construction, already received a license renewal for another five years from the Planning Board on April 25.

McGee’s attorney, Michelle Allott of Farris Law, spoke against pausing the proceedings to hire an expert consultant, especially at her client’s expense. She noted no such requirement was made when Quirioin Construction was granted their license, nor did board members witness a blast in Quirion’s pit, which is also on West River Road but in a less populated area. She said requiring those steps for McGee to get a license — when those same steps were not required of Quirion — is unfair.

Allott noted McGee had an expert available at the meeting Tuesday, from Maine Drilling and Blasting, and he could answer the board’s questions.

“If there is a need to hire a third party expert — and again that’s not something anybody else has been asked to do — I think he (Ken Smith, the Maine Drilling and Blasting expert at Tuesday’s meeting) can answer any questions you have regarding blasting.”

Board members noted the Quirion and McGee sites are two different sites, and McGee’s site has faced frequent ongoing complaints from its neighbors, while Quirion’s has not.

“The difference between this site and the other is the conflict,” said Corey Vose, board member.


Tuesday’s meeting was the latest action in a long-standing debate and dispute over blasting in McGee’s pit off West River Road. Residents of the nearby Grandview neighborhood have said the blasting has damaged their homes, lowered their property values and disrupted their lives.

Blasting company officials have denied that claim and said their blasts have been within city ordinance standards. And company owner Steve McGee, who has purchased some homes in the neighborhood, has said property values in the neighborhood have not been harmed by blasting.

A May 2015 blast in McGee’s pit prompted a city lawsuit that claimed the blast exceeded allowable standards and sought to revoke McGee’s permit to blast and extract rock and gravel, which it uses in construction projects. The lawsuit was settled in September 2016. McGee agreed to pay the city $10,000, without agreeing a violation of the ordinance had occurred, and the city agreed to notify McGee in the event of future suspected blasting problems before initiating litigation.

Matt Nazar, development director, recommended the Planning Board consult with an expert in blasting hired by the city, Golder Associates, which has a branch office in Freeport. The company has also been hired by the city to review the city’s blasting ordinances and report to the city council.

City councilors voted 4-3 earlier this month to reject a proposal to force the Planning Board to delay consideration of McGee’s license renewal to allow city officials to meet with the blasting expert. But they noted the board still had the right, in city ordinance, to hire outside experts and have the applicant pay the cost. Nazar said the process is the expert would be hired and paid by the city and the city would then be reimbursed by McGee.

The board is expected to hear back from the blasting expert at its June 27 meeting.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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