By Kara Herlihy
Moretown Select Board members voted to hold a townwide vote seeking authorization to expend additional monies on unanticipated legal expenses associated with the ongoing litigation of the proposed Rivers' quarry project on Route 100B.
At an emergency meeting held Wednesday, April 15, town officials voted in favor of allowing attorney Ron Shems to complete a rebuttal as a part of the Vermont Environmental Court trial's conclusion. Select board members also decided to hold a townwide vote to add additional monies to the budget in lieu of diverting funds from other line items.
|Motion to Dismiss
Quarry developer Rich Rivers recently filed for and was granted a motion to dismiss a direct discharge permit appeal from among the consolidated appeals before the Vermont Environmental Court. The court has yet to issue a Merits Decision on the two remaining appeals in the case (the conditional use appeal and Act 250). Court documents indicate that "the parties have already submitted their initial post trial briefings in this matter, and responses to those briefs are due by April 27, 2009."
The 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 rulings and the appeals later merged at the Vermont Environmental Court.
FINDINGS OF FACT
Select board members asked the town's attorney Ron Shems to explain the additional $8,000 bill they anticipated at the emergency meeting. Shems said he is in the process of preparing a rebuttal to the findings of fact, which is due to the judge on April 27.
Shems said he was well within the $30,000 estimated for 2009 and that the he deferred an invoice from November and December until January 2009, per the request of the select board. The total of all invoices is about $18,000, according to Shems, which includes the recent $8,000 bill.
The town has a total of $35,000 budgeted for general legal expenses; currently $32,000 has been spent and the work is not complete. Shems said, "It would be very strange not to file a rebuttal on the findings. We're very close; let's finish the job."
Select board member Rob Roberts asked Shems whether not completing the rebuttal would give the applicant an advantage. Shems confirmed that it would provide an advantage, but "the win is determined by the judge." Shems added that he had not yet begun work on the rebuttal.
Town officials said they were "reluctant" to hold a public comment period at the April 15 meeting because the intention of the emergency meeting was to debate, amongst themselves, the best way to proceed.
NOT ANOTHER DIME
Select board member John Hoogenboom said, "The purpose of the meeting was to have Ron explain to us the other $8,000 plus more on top of it."
Select board chair Rae Washburn said, "We agreed to not spend another dime until he explains himself."
Town officials then discussed how to fund the additional unanticipated legal expenses: Roberts said the town should consider using money from other line items; Washburn said he would like to defer work on the Town Hall until a vote is held.
"It's going to take some management to finish it, find the money in the budget, but we've spent all this money; we can't stop now," Robert said.
Select board member David Van Deusen, who participated in the meeting via cell phone, said he was also in favor of finding money in the budget to cover the legal fees.