HANOVER — A 12- by 17-foot chunk of granite deposited by a glacier thousands of years ago in a small valley is driving a wedge between camp and homeowners along Howard Pond Road.
The commotion, which began last year, has stirred emotions to the point where lawyers will enter the fray this month to represent the town and homeowners Glen and Suzanne LaForest.
The LaForests of Utah want “the big rock,” as it is known locally, removed or destroyed. A few neighbors, passionate about the sentimental value of the boulder, want it to stay put.
Last year, selectmen voted 2-1 against moving or destroying the boulder.
That didn't sit well with the LaForests or the Hanover Planning Board members who say the rock is an accident waiting to happen due to poor visibility.
The LaForests say the boulder is too close to their new 20- by 24-foot garage, which is attached to their new 26- by 36-foot log cabin overlooking their old camp on the shore of Howard Pond.
Due to the advent of shoreland zoning laws, the LaForests had to rebuild 250 feet from the pond.
The Planning Board issued a shoreland zoning permit last spring, initially saying the new house could be built without moving the boulder. They also waived Hanover's sight-distance requirement for the driveway.
The board now says the rock must go for safety reasons.
“It sticks out (into the road) like a sore thumb,” Planning Board member Bob Fortin said Wednesday in Rumford.
“The owner has my OK to do something about it," he said. "I know if I owned the place, (the rock) would be gone.”
Selectmen Brenda Gross and Frank Morrison, on the other hand, are holding their ground. Gross said she was too busy to comment Thursday afternoon. A call to Morrison wasn't returned.
Calls to LaForest neighbors Bob and Peggy Susbury, who don't want the rock moved, also were not returned.
However, Pam Puiia of 393 Howard Pond Road, who agrees with selectmen and the Susburys, said Thursday afternoon that the LaForests should abide by their permit and learn to live with the rock.
Puiia said the boulder has been there the whole time the LaForests had the cottage, and it was never a problem then. She doesn't see why it should be an issue now.
Citing a SAD 43 and Maine Department of Transportation study when she pressed to have a school bus pick up her children, Puiia said the boulder wasn't identified as a safety issue.
Additionally, she said the boulder has sentimental value because her children played on it when they were younger.
“It was never an issue with the LaForests and now there's this huge thing happening over it,” Puiia said. “It's a huge controversy and I just think it's stupid. People go, 'It's just a stupid rock,' but it's not.”
Puiia has lived on Howard Pond Road since 1990. Her husband's grandparents lived there for many years back when Howard Pond didn't exist because the river had yet to be dammed to create the small pond.
“That rock has never been an issue for anyone up here,” Puiia said.
Planning Board member Steve Pelletier, who built the LaForest cabin, said Wednesday that selectmen should have compromised long ago to prevent the issue from splitting the town in half.
He said he has lost friends over the matter, including a selectman.
“There's definitely a problem,” Pelletier said. “The road is only 12 feet wide (at the rock), whereas the rest of the road is 17 to 18 feet wide. The building inspector said the rock must be moved, but nobody wanted to listen to the building inspector and the Planning Board."
Pelletier suggested drilling holes in the rock, breaking it up and using it for landscaping.
Another Howard Pond resident, Bob Brown, has offered to remove the rock at no charge.
Brown has painted large red X's on the boulder, an action that provoked selectmen last year into reporting it as vandalism to the Oxford County Sheriff's Office.
No charge was brought because a judge refused to hear the case, saying it's a political issue, Pelletier said.
“That rock is so in the middle of the road that it's not funny,” he said. “There's more important things to worry about than this rock.”
Selectmen will address the matter again at their June 21 meeting. The LaForests plan to be there, along with their lawyer.