By Kara Herlihy
Moretown Taxpayers for Common Cents representative Jack Wood submitted a petition to the Moretown Select Board calling for "spending changes" regarding town monies spent in opposition to the proposed quarry project on Route 100B.
The quarry applicant is Rich Rivers, who proposed the quarry that would occupy a portion of the 93 acres north of Moretown Village. Rivers applied for and was denied town development review board permits in 2004 and was denied an Act 250 permit on two criteria (air quality and Town Plan conformance) in 2007. Rivers appealed both and the appeals, which later merged at the Vermont Environmental Court.
The taxpayers expressed their dissatisfaction with the estimated $104,000 spent by the town since 2004 fighting the proposed quarry project at a previous meeting in September. Representatives indicated that they would "take further action" in the form of a petition.
Wood presented the petition to the board on Monday evening, October 6. It was signed by 170 Moretown residents and Wood queried the board on whether there had been any recent attempts at negotiation with "the Rivers camp." Select board chair Don Wexler cited the mediation that took place approximately one year ago, which was unsuccessful.
Wexler added that there had been recent communication, as recent as last week, between the town's attorney Ron Shems and the applicant's attorney. Select board member Paula Mastroberardino said the board is "considering options" on how to move forward.
Wood asked members of the select board how they typically communicate with Shems, and whether it was by e-mail or telephone conversation. "I question the attorney's intentions," he said.
Wexler said that the town does their best to limit communication with the town's attorney in an effort to conserve on legal expenses.
Wood also asked the board if the development review board denied the initial permit for the new town garage; members of the board said the permit was never officially denied, rather kept open to allow additional information to be heard.
The garage permit's potential denial was based upon the DRB's dissatisfaction with the landscaping plans, screening and storm water discharge. The permit was approved by the DRB once a landscape architect was consulted on the site's plans.
At a previous meeting, select board member Stephanie Venema said that the quarry could have negative impacts on property values in Moretown Village. Wood asked if the Moretown Landfill received "special dispensation" because he said, "The dump decreased property values."
"It's a different process and a different review," said Mastroberardino.
FIGHTING THE QUARRY
At a previous meeting, members of Moretown Taxpayers for Common Cents outlined several questions to the town regarding the monies spent fighting the quarry. The select board presented the group with their written response at the October 6 meeting.
Wood asked what the town's procedure is for answering petitions, and how they plan to address the taxpayers' concerns. Wexler said they would take it under advisement, indicating that they had no outlined protocol for the situation.
At a previous meeting, town's attorney Ron Shems said that the litigation will "likely be over by midwinter."