Houston appeals Act 250 permit for water project

By Lisa Loomis

Virginia Houston has appealed the Act 250 permit Waitsfield received for a municipal water project.

Houston's appeal, filed on February 18 by her attorney Paul Gillies, challenges the District 5 Environmental Commission's February 5 permit for the water project.

Additionally, Jean Damon has filed a motion to alter the permit through her attorneys, Richard Darby and Chris Nordle.

Both Damon and Houston are adjoiners to Reed Road where Waitsfield has drilled a well in the town right of way. Water from that well will supply the municipal water system.


To establish a wellhead protection zone, Waitsfield took, by eminent domain, an easement on a 0.4-acre parcel from both Houston and Damon. While the town has received a water source permit from the state for using water from that well, Damon and Houston are in litigation with the town over the easements for the wellhead protection zone.

Houston's appeal and Damon's motion to alter the permit both reference the ongoing litigation. Houston raises several questions after prefacing the appeal by alleging that Waitsfield took her land without due process and that the town does not have proof that Reed Road is a town road and hence can't drill there.


Through Gillies, she asks if the issue of control over the Reed Road requires that she have signed the Act 250 application as an adjoining landowner. She asks whether or not she was denied party status incorrectly on several of the 10 Act 250 criteria and argues that Waitsfield's water project will negatively impact her ability to access the wells she has drilled on her land and to use the town permits she has for water withdrawal and trucking.

Additionally she charges that the town's project will interfere with her forest management plan and that the town well will be treated with chemicals that will contaminate the aquifer and Pine Brook.  


The Damon motion to alter takes issue with one particular finding in the Act 250 permit which references the fact that Damon and Houston are still in litigation over the "condemnation of small portions of their lands for the project."

Damon's motion notes that "Ms. Damon and Ms. Houston adamantly contend that the town of Waitsfield has not yet obtained any easement or other interest in their respective parties. This issue is presently being litigated in Washington Superior Court."

She asks that the particular finding be revised to note that Waitsfield claims to have obtained an approximate 0.4-acre permanent easement from both adjoiners through condemnation but that the matter is still being litigated.


In 2008, the town had an independent appraisal done on the 0.422-acre easement on Damon's land and the 0.432-acre easement on Houston's land. The appraisal valued the parcels at $3,500 and $4,000, respectively. The town issued checks to Damon and Houston for $7,500 each for those easements, although both landowners returned the checks.

Finally, the town itself also filed a motion to alter the Act 250 permit, asking that another finding be amended. That finding deals with a culvert under Reed Road and how water will drain to avoid impacting the Damon property.

The Act 250 permit spells out the conditions which the town must meet to build the $7.6 million water project. The town has received $3.014 million in loans and grants to offset the cost of the system. The system will serve Waitsfield and Irasville with water that comes from the well drilled in the right of way off Reed Road. The water will be gravity pumped via pipeline to a 400,000-gallon storage tank off Bushnell Road.