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08/06/2009

By Lisa Loomis

Act 250 hearings for Waitsfield's municipal water project continue next week with testimony slated on soil erosions, roads and highways, municipal services and others.

The hearing will be held on August 12 at the Waitsfield Elementary School at 7 p.m. During the hearing members of the District 5 Environmental Commission will hear from the town's experts as well as expert witnesses for those who have party status.

The $7.6 million project will create municipal water for a service area that includes Waitsfield Village, Irasville, Tremblay Road and Old County Road. The town has drilled a well on Reed Road that yields 269 gallons per minute. That water will be pumped to a half million gallon holding tank on Bushnell Road where it will be distributed via water mains to users. The system is designed for approximately 134,000 gallons of water a day.

TEN REVIEW CRITERIA

The first 4 of Act 250's 10 review criteria were considered during a July hearing. Those criteria are: 1. Air pollution (and headwaters, waste disposal, water conservation, floodways, streams, shorelines and wetlands); 2. Water supply; 3. Impact on existing water supplies; and 4. Soil erosion.

Up for consideration next week will be: 5. Highways and other means of transportation; 6. Educational services; 7. Municipal services; 8. Scenic beauty, historical sites and natural areas; 9. Impact of growth (and prime ag soils, protection of forest soil, earth resources and energy); and 10. Conformance with local and regional plans, such as the Town Plan.

Several individuals asked for and received party status for the hearings, which allows them to provide testimony. By law, the town, the regional planning commission and the state have party status. For these hearings, party status has been granted to the Mad River Valley Planning District, the tri-town planning district that works extensively with Waitsfield, Warren, Fayston and Sugarbush on planning, growth and development.

GRANTED PARTY STATUS

Emily von Trapp Catlin, who lives on Bushnell Road, was granted party status under criteria 5 and 8 (highways and scenic beauty). Ray LaRochelle received party status under criteria 3 and 5 (existing water supply and highways). Betsy Brothers received party status under criterion 3 (existing water supply).

Virginia Houston owns land that adjoins the town's well (which is located in the right of way of Reed Road). She petitioned for and received party status under criteria 3 and 5 (existing water supply and highways) but did not receive party status under criteria 2, 4 and 9K (water supply, soil erosion and development affecting public investments). The District 5 Environmental Commission granted the same party status to Jean R. Damon, who also owns land on the Reed Road adjacent to the town's well.

Damon and Houston also requested co-applicancy status, arguing that because their land abuts the town road and right of way that Act 250 rule 10A should prevail. Rule 10A requires that a developer/applicant and owners of record of a piece of land participate (when applicant is not the owner). Waitsfield argued that Damon and Houston should not be required to participate, citing Vermont statute 10 V.S.A. 6083(f), which reads: "In situations where the party seeking to file an application is a state agency, municipality, solid waste management district empowered to condemn the involved land or an interest in it, the application need only be signed by that party."

PROPERTY CLAIMS

The District 5 Environmental Commission noted that "Damon and Houston contend that they have substantial property interests in a portion of the involved land and that they are necessary co-applicants. They have brought actions in the Washington County Superior Court challenging the applicant's proposed use of the properties."

The commission found that the proper venue for the property claims is superior court. The commission further agreed with Waitsfield's argument that since it had begun condemnation proceedings for the rights of way across approximately one-half acre of Damon land and a similar amount of Houston land to provide the wellhead protection shield, the town could and should be the only applicant.

It addition to the condemnation litigation over the wellhead protection shield right of way, Damon and Houston are also involved in litigation with the town over a Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation water supply source permit. That appeal is before the Vermont Environmental Court. Damon and Houston asked that the Act 250 hearings be stayed pending the outcome of those two appeals, which the commission denied.

The August 12 hearing is open to the public.

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