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Prospect imposes industrial development moratorium amid concerns over granite quarry proposal

Courtesy of Maine Department of Environmental Protection
via the Bangor Daily News
The view upriver from the location of a proposed pier on the Penobscot River. The pier would be used by Bowden Point Properties, a Virginia-owned company, to load barges with processed granite taken from Heagan Mountain in Prospect.

Residents of Prospect voted unanimously over the weekend to impose a six-month moratorium on industrial development in the town's shoreland zone.

With a population of around 700, Prospect doesn't have a working comprehensive plan, or a clear vision for the kind of development projects that its residents might support.

That's made the town a popular target for development proposals in recent years, including one from Salmons, Inc. The Virginia-based company wants to build a $12-million granite crushing site and pier along the Penobscot River.

Kathleen Jenkins, the chair of the town's planning board, said the project has residents concerned about their water supply, home values and potential noise problems.

"That's what I hear from the town," she said. "Not one person has called me as a member of the planning board and said, 'Let's get this going; this is great.' People are really concerned."

Bowden Point Properties, a subsidiary of Salmons, Inc., wants to build a 50-acre site, where it will crush rock and load the material onto barges on the Penobscot River. The project will eventually require local, state and federal approval, and Jenkins estimated the review and permitting process could take months or years to complete.

But the temporary moratorium gives Prospect citizens time to pause and start drafting a more comprehensive vision for the town, which could eventually include specific zones for industrial development or other land uses.

"It's really a first step to try and get to a point where we can actually implement a comprehensive plan and try and get this town to figure out what direction it really wants to go in — what it wants to be in the future going forward," said Peter Shoults, who recently moved to Prospect and owns a home in the area.

Shoults said he's one of about a dozen people who have formed a local group that's opposed to the Bowden Point quarry project.

Prospect only has a shoreland zoning ordinance, which Maine law requires for most towns. It last tried to implement a comprehensive plan in the mid-90s, but it wasn't implemented and the state never approved it.

This effort should be different, Jenkins said.

"That's what people are saying: We're willing to do the hard work now. A comprehensive plan is a lot of work," she said. "It's a little town; we have a pretty small volunteer base to draw from in this town. The fact that a dozen people have stepped up and said, 'Yeah, I'll do that work,' is pretty indicative, because people weren't volunteering on the comprehensive plan before."

Bowden Point Properties recently submitted the initial applications for a granite processing site and pier for the third time, according to Dave Madore, deputy commissioner for Maine's Department of Environmental Protection.

The department rejected two other attempts earlier this year. The DEP said it now has until May 9 to determine whether the latest applications are complete.