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Moretown quarry proposal goes to environmental court

04/12/2007

By Erin Post

A Waitsfield resident who has been denied an Act 250 permit for a rock quarry in Moretown is taking his case to Vermont Environmental Court.

Applicant Richard Rivers Jr. filed a notice of appeal with the court March 29. The document's "Statement of Questions"--required to establish the scope of the appeal--lays out 19 issues the appellant would like the court to address.

Six questions pertain to the two Act 250 criteria the District Five Environmental Commission said the application did not meet: Criterion One, dealing with air pollution; and Criterion Ten, requiring conformance with the Town Plan.

The Moretown Town Plan comes under close scrutiny in the appeal: One question asks the court to rule on the intent of words such as "shall" and "should"; another requests clarification on whether the document is intended to "guide" land use or "mandate certain uses and proscribe others."

The remaining 13 questions relate to conditions the district commission would have imposed had the project received Act 250 approval. Issues referenced in those questions include whether truck traffic on Route 100B from the proposed quarry should be restricted at times school buses are on the road, as ruled by the commission, as well as several issues surrounding water supply testing and blast warnings.  

Also on March 29, the applicant filed a motion to reactivate a municipal appeal put on hold in April 2005. At that time, Rivers opted to move ahead with state permitting instead of pursuing an appeal of the Moretown Development Review Board's (DRB) decision to deny the quarry a conditional use permit.

Rivers filed the appeal of the DRB ruling, and then asked that it be held until the Act 250 review was complete.

The March 29 motion asks the court to combine the municipal and Act 250 appeals, stating that the move would result in a "more efficient, expeditious and fair process than allowing the appeals to proceed separately," as required by Vermont Rules of Environmental Court Procedure (VRECP).

The town of Moretown has also filed a notice of appeal in Vermont Environmental Court.

Moretown's cross-appeal, submitted April 4, asks the court to review the district commission's findings on 5 of Act 250's 10 criteria, including Criterion Five (traffic), Six (educational services), Seven (municipal or government services), Eight (scenic and natural beauty, aesthetics, natural areas, historic sites), and Nine (conformance with development plan).

Moretown's attorney, Ron Shems, said filing a cross-appeal allows the town to broaden the scope of issues it can raise at trial. Truck traffic is one concern for the town, he said, citing a question about whether a traffic study of the intersection of Moretown Mountain Road and Route 100B is warranted.

The Mad River Neighborhood Association (MRNA), a citizens' group that has organized against the project since it first came to the DRB almost three years ago, plans to continue to fight the quarry proposal, said association president Scott Sainsbury.

"There's a lot of disappointment" that the case is going to environmental court, he said, given that town officials and a legion of residents have continued to speak out against the proposal.

"Everyone who has been against it will remain against it," he said.

A few "Keep 100B Quarry Free" signs have sprouted up in Moretown, reminiscent of the lobbying effort leading up to the Act 250 hearings held at the Moretown Town Hall last spring.

Rivers has defended the proposed quarry as an acceptable land use according to the town's zoning ordinance, as well as a potential economic benefit to the region.

He did not return a phone call seeking comment this week.

Rivers' proposal calls for a quarry to be located on 93 acres off Route 100B about 2.5 miles north of the village of Moretown, in an area zoned agricultural/residential. The quarry would produce about 75,000 cubic yards of stone annually over the course of 33 years, according to the project application.

For the environmental court case, the next step is for the judge to hold a pre-trial conference to set a schedule for proceedings. According to a publication from the court, conferences are typically held within six weeks of an appeal being filed.

Contact Erin Post at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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