WINTHROP – In a divided vote, town councilors passed a temporary ban on rock quarry excavation as well as sand and gravel pit activities in Winthrop. The decision halts a controversial proposal for a quarry on Turkey Lane while officials consider how to regulate the activities.

The Town Council held a public hearing Monday for residents to voice their opinions on a six-month moratorium, which generated discussion over the potential health and environmental risks of having a blast site in town and what it could do to the town’s valuation.

The council ultimately voted 5-2 for the moratorium, with Elizabeth Peters and Vice Chair Anthony Wess in opposition. Council Chair Sarah Fuller and councilors James Steele, Shannon McDonnell, Linda Caprara and Bruce Burns voted in favor of it.

The temporary ban allows residents and officials at least six more months to consider the impacts of a proposal by L/A Properties LLC to create a 300-acre open pit quarry on Turkey Lane, where rocks would be blasted or crushed once or twice a year for two-week periods. The Planning Board had been considering whether to permit the project when residents opposed to the idea called on the town to put stricter regulations in place first.

Those residents, who formed a group called “Stop the Winthrop Quarry,” voiced concerns that crushed rock particles from the site could get into the air and, if inhaled, could cause people to develop silicosis, a lung disease that usually impacts miners. They said the activities could damage the environment and that dust could collect in streams in the area and cause harm to aquatic life, among other issues.

The group has also expressed concerns that the Lewiston-based company behind the proposal has not demonstrated its compliance with more than a dozen criteria the town requires such projects to meet. These factors range from showing that the project will not have an adverse impact on fish, birds and other wildlife in the area to showing that it will not cause water pollution and sedimentation or negatively impact the quality, or amount, of groundwater in the area.


Rick Breton, owner of L/A Properties, said he is talking with his attorney and engineers to figure out his next steps now that the town has enacted the temporary ban.

He said he wants to put affordable housing near the proposed quarry and said the rock from the quarry would be used to construct that housing and other housing in the area.

“It’s just frustrating as an entrepreneur,” he said of Monday’s vote. “I want to do great things — I put a mobile lot in Richmond and Waterville and just added another … I supply a lot of affordable housing to Maine, and I will fight this battle. I put $2.5 million of my own money into the project.”

Fuller said she has not heard about Breton’s plans to build affordable housing in Winthrop, but that she has not attended recent Planning Board meetings where it may have come up. Interim Town Manager Stephen Eldridge did not respond to a request for a comment on the matter.

Several residents who attended the hearing Monday said they were pleased to see the mortarium pass, including Scott Knox, who said he has listened to “both sides” of the argument for four months and that he thinks it is best to err on the cautious side.

“The things that could go wrong, the natural resources of the area, the people’s health, the downside risk far outweighs the other benefits,” he said at Monday’s meeting.


Gil Soucy, who lives on Turkey Lane and helped organize the Stop the Winthrop Quarry group, said it now includes scientists, including an air pollution expert, in addition to townspeople. The group has asked town officials for the opportunity to work with them in drafting ordinance language to regulate rock quarries and sand and gravel pits in the town.

The group posted a message Monday night on its Facebook page, which has over 120 followers, voicing relief at the moratorium’s passage. The group regularly publicized upcoming meetings so interested members could attend.

“We are joyful at this important accomplishment but realize there is serious work ahead as the town of Winthrop drafts an updated ordinance,” the post read. “We need to be supportive to the work and ensure that this benefits residents and the environment for years to come.”

Those in opposition to the moratorium and who wanted the quarry proposal to move forward said they were worried about the potential to lose out on a new business in town that could go to a surrounding town instead. Peters, one of the councilors who voted against the moratorium, based her decision on her own research that she shared at the meeting.

Other discussions among the council revolved around whether to form a subcommittee to research regulations, but the time it would take to establish a committee and have a vote from the town could exceed the six-month moratorium period. Councilors said they will use the six months to get more informed on the issue at hand.

“I think a lot of folks made excellent points on both sides,” said Fuller, the council chair. “The Planning Board and everyone participating have done a lot in good faith for more information. We are at a point where everyone needs a little more information and time for decisions.”

The moratorium halts all rock quarry excavation, sand and gravel pit activity and mineral exploration and extraction, including projects that have already submitted applications for permits, site plans and other documentation to the town for review before the temporary ban was enacted.

Fuller told the Kennebec Journal on Tuesday that officials can look over contracts and applications, but cannot approve any while the moratorium is in effect. Violations could result in a per-day fine and penalty.

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