Rockland dives into quarry quagmire

By Stephen Betts | Aug 08, 2017
Photo by: Stephen Betts

Rockland — The complexity of the city trying to sell its interest in a massive, former limestone quarry was evident Aug. 7.

Multiple people interested in the Engine Quarry off Old County Road met with the city council at its Monday evening meeting.

The council rejected July 10 on a 2-2 vote a proposal to sell the water-filled quarry to Jake Barbour.

At the Aug. 7 meeting, Barbour, Cathleen Dorr and Annie Higbee attended to talk about the property. No consensus was reached and the property will not be put back up for sale on the Aug. 14 agenda.

Barbour reiterated his interest in acquiring the quarry. Dorr and her husband, Owen Dorr, have also bid on the property, which is adjacent to their Old County Road home. Higbee was representing Frederick Dodd of Sherborn, Mass. Dodd operates a business known as International Zoological Expeditions Inc. and has said he would stop illegal dumping, clean out the quarry, and make it available for those who wish to study a different and unique self-contained ecosystem.

The city has owned the property since 1982, when Maine Drilling & Blasting Inc. failed to pay its property taxes. Maine Drilling had acquired the land in 1981 from the Rockland-Rockport Lime Co. Inc.

The city has solicited proposals for the land on multiple occasions since 2014, but has never followed through on a sale.

Barbour offered a 0.64-acre parcel he owns adjacent to the city landfill -- which is assessed by the city at $4,500 -- and would grant the city an easement on a long, narrow parcel on Rankin Street for a walking trail that is planned to stretch from the former MacDougal School property to city-owned land on Old County Road.

Dodd offered the city $20,000 for the property.

Barbour said Aug. 7 he continues to want the city's interest in the quarry. He said he believes he has as much legal claim to the property as the city because his mother had acquired mineral rights to the quarry many years ago.

He said if the city sells its interest to someone else, he may have to take legal action to acquire title to the land.

Barbour pointed out that the property he has offered the city adjacent to the landfill has been used by the city during the past few winters for snow dumping.

City Manager Tom Luttrell acknowledged the city would need to find an alternative location for dumping if there was a winter with significant snowfall.

Higbee said what Dodd wants to do with the property is "awesome." She said it would create a property that all people could enjoy. She said that preserving a beautiful quarry should be a higher priority than a site for snow removal.

Cathy Dorr questioned why the city had not informed Dodd when the city had last sought bids. Dodd found out before the deadline from the Dorrs.

Dorr said the quarry is literally in their backyard and she likes what Dodd is proposing but is concerned about what would be done if Barbour acquired it. She said she knows Dragon Products is interested in a location for dump materials.

Barbour has said he would first acquire the property before detailing any plans.

Councilor Ed Glaser said he would rather the city acquire Barbour's property along Rankin Street for a trail leading from MacDougal rather than simply receiving an easement.

"That would sweeten the pot for me," he said.

Comments (2)
Posted by: Kendall Merriam | Aug 15, 2017 12:37

What a legal mess. Rockland needs its attorney to sort this out. Oh, wait! Those legal fees would cost more than the city would gain in a sale.

Posted by: Dale Hayward | Aug 08, 2017 14:32

Intimidation and threat of legal action is not a first for this city to be faced with. Does the city council, or any one of them, ever learn their lessons and do things correct, oh, no, no legal council on board, good move.

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