UPDATED: 04-16-09 4:15PM
By Kara Herlihy
Anticipated legal fees associated with the proposed Rivers' quarry on Route 100B in Moretown prompted select board members to schedule an emergency meeting with the town's attorney, Ron Shems, to be held as The Valley Reporter goes to press on April 15.
At a special select board meeting held Monday evening, April 13, town officials scheduled the emergency meeting to address unanticipated legal fees amounting to approximately $13,000 over the budgeted $30,000.
Select board members discussed the attorney and associated legal fees expected during a status report of the 2009 town budget. Select board chair Rae Washburn said that Shems was preparing a final statement of his work for the year, and that the work was not yet done.
HAVE AN ISSUE
Select board member David Van Deusen said, "If I bring my car to the shop, and they say it's going to cost $500 and the bill says $1,000, I have an issue with that."
Shems continues to represent the town in ongoing litigation between the applicant, Rich Rivers, whose proposed quarry project was denied development review board permits in 2004 and also denied an Act 250 permit on two criteria (air quality and Town Plan conformance) in 2007.
Rivers appealed both rulings and the appeals later merged at the Vermont Environmental Court. The proposed project is located on 93 acres north of Moretown Village on the west side of Route 100B.
Currently, Shems is in the process of preparing a rebuttal to Rivers' findings, which is due on April 27, according to Washburn. The town budgeted $30,000 for quarry legal expenses, per Shems' recommendation, which includes a $5,000 buffer from the originally quoted $24,479. In total, Moretown has $35,000 budgeted for all town legal expenses.
WITHOUT GOING OVER BUDGET
Town officials discussed the unanticipated legal costs and how they should proceed without going over the budget. Washburn said, "We made a commitment as a town to support the DRB, and we gave Shems the authority to fight this case and that's what he's been doing."
"I'm not being critical of Shems," Washburn continued. "It is the process, and we said we're not going to go over budget without a vote," he added.
Select board member John Hoogenboom said, "The bleeding has got to stop." Shems was contacted immediately following the discussion and agreed to meet with the select board on Wednesday, April 15, at 6 p.m.
On April 15 members of the Moretown Select Board voted to allow the town's attorney to complete a final rebuttal for ongoing litigation associated with a proposed Rivers' quarry project on Route 100-B. Town officials also voted in favor of scheduling a town-wide vote to allow an additional sum of money to be added to the town's budget for final legal fees. If not approved by the voters, select board members say they will use money from within their budget. Details on the vote and the ongoing, nearly completed trial to come in next week's issue of The Valley Reporter.