Friday, May 1, 2009

Warren Knight: Pike Is Attempting to Intimidate Smiling Hill Farm

According to a press release from Warren Knight of Smiling Hill Farm, Pike's law firm has subpoenaed him for material related to the company's lawsuit against the City of Westbrook, a move that Knight equates with intimidation and harassment:

This is an effort to intimidate and silence an
abutting landowner attempting to exercise their right to speak honestly and
openly concerning local land-use decisions. I have never been subjected to this
level of harassment. It is difficult enough for private citizens to stand up in
public and speak. It is shameful to make it more difficult by exploiting the
legal system to intimidate us from exercising this basic right.
In the remainder of the tersely written release (which was ironically drafted on Smiling Hill Farm letterhead accentuated with jolly bubble letters promising "We'll put a smile on your face!"), Knight declares Smiling Hill Farm's lack of interest in selling its land to Pike ("Smiling Hill Farm is not interested in exploiting our land to the detriment of our neighbors, our loyal customers, or our community. We will resist every effort by Pike to drive us out of business and seize our small farm."), accuses some citizens of receiving a stipend to testify at public hearings on Pike's behalf ("I know that times are tough, but accepting money to speak on behalf of Pike perverts our system of participatory local government. Both tactics: using the legal system to intimidate citizens with opposing views and giving money to citizens to speak on their behalf makes a mockery of our long-standing Maine tradition of open town meetings."), and reiterates the farm's opposition to Pike's proposal to expand its Spring Street quarry ("If we were a confinement feedlot operation the constant blasting wouldn't be as big a problem. But our cows are free-range, grazing loose in pastures. The cows panic and can stampede from the blasting. We are unwilling to lock our animals indoors and feed them processed food in order to accommodate Pike's blasting.")

(Update: According to the PPH, Pike has also issued subpoenas to Artel Inc., Idexx, and New Age Media. For their part, Pike's lawyers at Preti Flaherty Beliveau and Pachios LLP say such subpoenas are standard legal practice, not a tool of harassment or intimidation.)

- John C.L. Morgan

Full disclosure: My wife works for Idexx.

Related: More on the Rock 'N Road Tour '09 (April 28, 2009)
Related: On the Rock 'N Road Tour '09 (April 24, 2009)
Related: Pike v. Idexx et al Goes Viral (April 23, 2009)


Anonymous said...

The Knights are a well respected Westbrook family from long ago. I think it was articulated well and I am in full agreement regarding one's right to speak at town meetings without feeling intimidated in any way. Thank you Mr. Knight for your thoughtful letter and most importantly for having the respect for how our government should work without losing its integrity. You are a fine example of an educated voter.

Anonymous said...

I find it sad that the above comment leads one to believe that you think that our municipal government at least hasn't indeed lost its integrity with this matter. I find it odd that Warren Knight says his cows can stampede from a blast when they could stampede from thunder, or jets going over his property (which by the way = doesn't Mr. Knight live in Buxton and own horses now?). This is a sad case and for him to accuse the other side of intimidation is strange since all legal cases are allowed to know why they are being accused of something? Why is Warren Knight heading a fight for an Industrial Park? I find this really odd...

Anonymous said...

I'm not surprised Pike's attorneys have continued legal saber rattling here since this characterizes the testimony they've presented in front of the ZBA as well.

It's clear to anyone who has watched the ZBA hearings that Pike doesn't have a strong legal case that clearly proves they do have grandfathered rights to expand activity on this site without additional city approvals. Therefore, they've been faced with building their case using heavy handed legal manipulation, threats of lawsuits, innuendo, and late filed testimony (after the public comment period ended) by an ex-city CEO who left for Florida on vaction the day before and was therefore not available for cross examination as were all the other parties who testified. Pike has had at least 5 attorneys with support staff at each of these hearings which I view as implied intimidation in itself.

This seems like the natural progression of their feeble legal position and arguments on grandfathered status presented in testimony to date. I'm hoping the rule of law will prevail here even against the background of further lawsuits against the city by Pike which I'm confident will be their next action should the ZBA not agree that they can do whatever they want at this site without additional city approvals.

Nervous Resident said...

I'm a Westbrook homeowner who has been watching this dispute from the sidelines and have been thinking it's time to get involved in the rezoning hearings in front of the planning board.

The message I got from this subpeona is that Pike is clearly stating that anyone who dares oppose their plans here faces legal action by their attorneys.

I consider this as broad-based intimidation against the City, Westbrook Works, and any other businesses and residents as a whole.

Anonymous said...

Why is it wrong for Pike to inquire about documents that Warren Knight claims he has in a box from some old antique dealer? I watched the hearings on TV and Knight said he supported Pike and it was Blue Rock he thought was wrong. If I didn't know better, I'd say these above comments were from people from Westbrook Works who were desperate. Pike's legal counsel seems on top of their game, that's all. They are trying to uncover every rock to save a viable business. Why is this wrong? Wouldn't you do that Mr. Knight if somebody was coming after your business?? Why are you doing this? What on earth do you have to gain? You live in BUXTON???

Curious Taxpayer said...


Have you been able to get ahold of a copy of Smiling Hill Farm's press release or subpeona you can post here? I've been looking on the internet for a copy today without success.


ps: I love your blog and you insights into Westbrook issues - please keep on posting.

Westbrook Diarist said...

I can forward the press release and subpoena to you. Just send me an e-mail at

Anonymous said...

Subpoenas are standard in a legal proceeding, and I am sure Westbrook Works will be throwing a few around should this proceed. Not sure why some feel the need to blow this out of portion and accuse Pike, who is only trying to protect their interests when no one else will, of harassment. I can only assume Mr. Knight is making such an issue of this because he has something to hide.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Knight isn't the victim here - Pike is. Don't let anyone fool you - Mr. Knight isn't a small town farmer struggling to make ends meet. Smiling Hill Farm is doing just fine, and they aren't the ones who will be forced out of town should the City rezone the industrial park.

Anonymous said...

The City of Westbrook determined that the Spring St quarry would be incompatible with the vision for the 5 Star Industrial Park back in 1968 when this was first proposed and it's much more of an incompatible use with the current neighboring businesses and residents. So, it looks like it's too early to tell who the victim will be here.

However, I struggle with agreeing with you that a multinational firm with annual revenue in the billions can ever be considered a "victim".

Anonymous said...

It's an industrial park - that's exactly where a quarry should be!

Not sure how the use of a quarry is incompatible with a park that includes trucking companies, warehouses, and a power plant, but would greatly appreciate an explanation as to how Pike is the only business not in sync with this alleged "vision."

Anonymous said...

I respectfully disagree with you that an industrial park is an appropriate location for a hard rock quarry. Most, like Pike's Poland quarry, are located on large plots of land in rural locations where the buffers help minimize the nuisance caused by constant blasting, dust, truck traffic, asphalt operations and rock crushing.

Given that I think we both agree that Westbrook would never permit this type of operation in the more densely built our areas of town today, I expect you understand why this is an incompatible use today, just as the city determined back in 1968. This is clearly documented in the record presented to the ZBA.

The rest of this we can argue in front of the planning board who is actively working on the city's rezoning proposal.

Anonymous said...

Can't exactly establish a quarry anywhere - kind of need to go where the rock takes you. Pike is extremely sensitive to their neighbors and they do what they can to minimize the impact on those around them. The buffers you are referring to at the Poland location were built up by Pike, and it is my understanding they will be building similar buffers at the Spring Street location.

Records/evidence aside, what is your issue with Pike operating their business in Westbrook?

T. Bickle said...

Well, contrary to Anonymous above, you can establish a quarry just about anywhere in Maine. I actually spoke with the Maine Geological Survey Bureau about this.

The actual geological designation of the rock on Spring Street is classified as the Berwick formation of the Merrimac Group.

According to the Maine Geological Survey (available on-line), the prevalence is pretty broad and covers a large swath of Southern Maine. The Berwick belt starts about 10 miles in from the coast and extends southwest through Berwick to Dover (NH). The belt also extends northeast to Lisbon. The Berwick belt is 4-5 miles wide and skirts granite formations to the north in Alfred and beyond The adjoining coastal bedrock is very similar kinds of stuff, layered rock but it is slightly different (Elliot formation).

The bedrock is buried by various materials (sand/gravel/loam) at different thicknesses so it is easier to access in certain areas. Sometimes covered by 4 feet of loam and sand, in other areas it is 20 feet or more below the surface. In that quarries are often quite deep (Main Street 350+ feet) excavating the covering material (often valuable in its own right) is not a deterrent to location.

That said, there are plenty of locations where this rock comes to the surface. Locally, north Gorham has extended lengths of exposed bedrock as do most communities (the Blackstrap region of Westbrook/Falmouth). Just drive 95 and witness all the locations where the highway was cut through the bedrock.

I don't know how Pike can continue to claim that the rock on Spring Street is somehow unique when all evidence shows otherwise. This is the exact same formation currently being quarried in Wells by Pike. Bottom line, this formation is not special and is not unique to this area.

Anonymous said...

T. Bickle, although you sound extremely knowledgeable about the geologic formations of southern Maine, you are completely ignorant of the exact material located in Westbrook. The material Pike is quarrying not only on Spring Street (as well as what has been depleted on Main street) is distictly unique in its properties. It is an extremely hard and dense gneiss that if you examine the Maine Geologic survey maps in detail is located only near the surface in the two locations above. The quality of this material is so unique that during the construction of the Seabrook Nuclear plant it was specified as the only acceptable material to be used in the concrete for critical sections of the plant. The Berwick formation is a granite that is mined in Wells as in other locations. Anyone can see the difference if they are willing to look. Please check the facts and do some research before spreading untruths.

T. Bickle said...

I don't need to check my facts since
I heard this from the top geologist in the State of Maine. I suggest you call him yourself. Maybe do a little of the research I have already done.

As for Seabrook, the only reason that rock from Westbrook was used (as well as rock from other locations) was because of the railroad siding. Most quarries were not located adjacent to a railroad and so could not bid on the supply contract.

Think about. They call it the "Berwick" formation because its only found in Westbrook? Please.

T. Bickle said...

The bedrock geology map for the Portland West quadrangle can be downloaded here:

The lime green color is the Berwick Formation as shown by the legend. Seems to be quite a bit of it.