Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Popcorn, Meet Butter

As part of my effort to unpack the news I missed while losing weight during the Thanksgiving break, here are a couple remarkable news items regarding the latest in the Pike v. Idexx et al. conflict (here and here).

A few quick thoughts:

The Plouffe Report has been a game-changer
In September, Idexx lawyer Bill Plouffe presented a report alleging Pike Industries (and Blue Rock Industries) have illegally operated the quarry in question since 1968. Besides evidently knocking Pike on its heels and forcing them to prove the legitimacy of their presence on Spring Street, it has (temporarily, at least) undermined Pike's main contention and sympathy point regarding their expansion: They were here first and had been a lawful taxpayer in the city long before those snotty-nosed geeks at Idexx got all uppity.

Or something like that.

Despite its efforts to avoid court, it appears the City of Westbrook will be sued--again
If the Westbrook City Council approves a zoning change that would effectively kill Pike's desired expansion, Pike says it will have little choice but to sue Westbrook (the company claims such a decision would cost them $620 million in lost revenue).

Now, I'm certainly not a lawyer (nor did I stay in a Holiday Inn last night), but it seems their rationale for a lawsuit is flawed. The PPH:
If the city prevents Pike from developing its property, the [Pike] press release said,
it would be violating state laws that prevent the use of eminent domain to
condemn privately owned property for the benefit of another business entity.
[snip]
'Pike believes that the city would be violating this important legal safeguard
if it attempts to limit Pike's use of the property for the benefit of
Idexx,' the release said. The council has not talked about using the power
of eminent domain in relation to the property, and it is unclear whether
Pike is suggesting in its news release that the zoning change would be
tantamount to an eminent-domain action.
On the other hand, if the City Councilors continue to stand pat and wait for the two sides to come to a, um, compromise, a lawsuit is being threatened from the anti-Pikers. The AJ:
According to [WPME-TV general manager Doug] Finck, even if the city wants to
avoid a legal battle with Pike by allowing them to expand, it’s still going to
end up in court. “Do you want to be sued by Pike or do you want to be sued by
somebody else?” he said.
Somehow I suspect those at 2 York Street and Room 114 hope that's a trick question.

- John C.L. Morgan

Full disclosure: My wife is employed by Idexx.

1 comment:

mainecartoons said...

I don’t see how Pike can win this fight. Idexx is a humongous business entity that is relatively clean and has enormous growth potential. In contrast, Pike is a small player in an industry that is dirty, smelly and noisy – albeit necessary.

Pike reminds me of the old farmer who wakes up one morning and discovers that the surrounding city sprawl has landlocked his turnip farm. The reality is that Pike’s own needs would probably be better served if they could relocate their entire quarry and manufacturing facilities to a more rural location.

I contend that Pike is fully aware that they won’t be expanding their quarry in Westbrook. I hate to use an ugly word like “shakedown”, but …

Idexx has deep pockets. How much would it be worth to them to make this problem go away?