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Moretown DRB discusses possible compromises in landfill expansion

At the Moretown Development Review Board (DRB) hearing that took place on Tuesday, November 13, an engineer working with Moretown Landfill gave a presentation explaining how the facility’s gas collection systems work to control odors. A representative from a state-mandated 24-hour hotline gave a presentation explaining how workers respond to and record landfill-related odor complaints. But the hearing was over before residents had a chance to respond.

“I think it would be nice if the neighbors got to give a presentation,” one resident, Martha Douglass, suggested. And so at the following hearing, which took place on Tuesday, November 20, residents who live near the landfill explained how off-site odors affect their daily lives.

 

Last Tuesday’s hearing was the sixth in a series of public hearings before the DRB as it considers Moretown Landfill’s application for a conditional use permit to construct a fourth trash cell at its Route 2 location.

The fourth trash cell—which would be as large as the existing three cells combined—would extend the landfill’s life by 15 to 18 years. Without the 40-acre addition—and without reopening Cell 2 (another permit the landfill is currently pursuing)—the landfill will reach capacity and be forced to close this February.

If the landfill closes, Moretown will lose out on the over $500,000 it receives annually from a host-town agreement it maintains with the facility. From that money, in the past year the town was able to reduce the municipal tax rate by 14 cents per dollar, and over the past 12 years the town has generated a savings reserve fund containing $858,293 as well as a capital reserve fund containing $178,218.

While all of Moretown benefits from the money the town receives from the landfill, a small contingent of residents who live near the facility argue that they also suffer serious consequences. In addition to dealing with strong sulfurous odors almost daily, at the most recent hearing, residents complained that their cars are often covered in dust due to landfill activities.

Moretown Landfill general manager Tom Badowski responded, saying that he has been very diligent about fixing the dust problem and that in the future, water trucks will spray the dirt on the roads to keep dust down.

According to James Dumont, a Bristol-based lawyer that one neighboring couple hired to represent them, dust on cars is not a violation of the landfill’s state permit. But, it could be something that the DRB takes into consideration when deciding whether to grant the company the conditional use permit it needs to construct Cell 4.

“That’s for you to decide, what you want to put up with within the community,” Dumont said, addressing the board.

In terms of odor, Dumont suggested that the DRB could potentially draw up a local land use condition or zoning rule that dictates the types of trash the landfill can accept, in order to control for high levels of smelly substances like sludge, and DRB chair John Riley said the board would look into it.

One change that has come out of the hearing process thus far is the proposed location of Moretown Landfill’s access road (if Cell 4 is approved).

Previously, the landfill faced opposition from Grow Compost, a small-scale business whose property borders the landfill, who felt that, according to the expansion plans, the landfill’s proposed access road and recycling drop-off center were too close to their property.

At Tuesday’s hearing, Badowski presented an alternate plan that moves the road about 120 feet east of its original proposed location and moves the recycling drop-off center further from the perimeter of the property.

With this change, the landfill will have to rework its plans for stormwater runoff, but—together with the possibility of controlling the types of trash the facility accepts—the announcement leaves hope that landfill executives and residents can eventually reach some sort of compromise.

The next DRB hearing regarding Moretown Landfill is scheduled for Thursday, December 6, at 6:30 p.m. at the Moretown Town Hall. A second site visit is also scheduled for Saturday, December 8, at a time to be announced.

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