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On Thursday, December 6, the Moretown Development Review Board (DRB) voted to continue hearings for the Moretown Landfill’s Cell 4 expansion project in May.
The vote came in response to the landfill’s request for a continuance to February, “so that it may focus all its immediate efforts and attention on its operations at the existing site,” Moretown Landfill regional operations manager Mark Harlacker wrote to the DRB in a letter early last week.
So far, the DRB has held seven public hearings as it considers the landfill’s application for a conditional use permit to construct a fourth trash cell at its Route 2 location. The fourth trash cell would be as large as the landfill’s existing three cells combined, and it would extend the landfill’s life by 15 to 18 years.
Moretown Landfill is one of only two landfills in the state and while many consider its expansion imperative, a small coalition of residents who live within a mile of the facility have been fighting for its closure or for better compliance with state standards.
Those residents, who call their coalition Citizens for Landfill Environmental Accountability and Responsibility (CLEAR), have become regulars at the DRB hearings, speaking up about the strong sulfurous odors and constant truck traffic associated with the landfill’s activity—about how prolonging the landfill’s life will negatively affect their own.
Among those residents who have spent hours collecting permits and odor reports to present as evidence to the DRB, the landfill’s request for a continuance was received with apprehension.
“If the continuance is granted,” one resident asked, “what have we really accomplished by having these hearings up until now?”
“Are we going to have to start all over again?” another resident asked.
DRB chair John Riley clarified that—if the continuance were granted—the hearings could continue where they left off, taking into account any changes that may have occurred during the break period.
However, “the continuance should only be granted for reasonable cause,” Riley said, calling to question the landfill’s reason for the request.
If the landfill is asking to delay the hearings, they should be doing so in order to gather more information relevant to the expansion project, Riley explained, not so they can focus on “existing operations” and “other things.”
That being said, if the continuance were not granted, “we would withdraw our application,” Brian Dunkiel, an attorney representing Moretown Landfill, said, and the board would have to start all over again when the landfill inevitably resubmitted its application for expansion at a later date.
“I think they’re trying to manipulate the process,” one resident argued.
“I would deny a request and say the board should make a decision on the permit as it now stands,” DRB board member Eric Titrud said.
But, in the end, the DRB moved to continue the hearings until next spring, on the condition that the landfill submits updated expansion plans and documentation of ANR violations 30 days prior to resuming the hearings.
The DRB chose May 2—rather than the requested February 1—for the next hearing, because board member Raymond Munn will be out of town until then and they felt it only fair to continue with all of the case’s original players.