Created on Thursday, 11 September 2008 07:11
Last Updated on Thursday, 11 September 2008 07:11
By Jack Wood
On September 2, the Moretown Select Board met with approximately 40 Moretown citizens. This meeting was well reported in <MI>The Valley Reporter<D>. The select board has not yet had time to respond in writing to our major questions of justification and authority to spend almost $110,000 in specific legal expense for litigation against Rich Rivers' proposed Moretown Quarry.
There still remain several items of discussion and clarification.
More recent information sets the current expenditure at $140,000. In addition, on Wednesday September 3, town attorney Ron Shems filed another motion to dismiss the case citing issues that are redundant and further costly to the town. These attempts to make an end run through late discoveries and public misinformation to stop the quarry are costly and have not been accepted by the court.
While attorney Shems may be doing what the select board is asking to defend their position, the board has the power and the right to withdraw from this proceeding at any time. They say they are defending the DRB decision, but they have disagreed with the DRB in the past and can do so again if they desire. All the while our expenses for this questionable fight continue to soar with an estimate from the board of an additional $50,000 to $80,000 before the final decision. The court has also become fed up and is demanding a final end to all this by mid-January at the latest. The town has put forth multiple motions to dismiss, yet Rivers' attorney has answered every one and the court has ruled in his favor.
Stephanie Venema proposed that property values would decrease around the Moretown quarry. A good argument has been made that the property surrounding an SLC quarry in Shelburne continues to hold or increase their values. The select board, however, did contribute to this myth by granting a 10 percent discount in taxes to a Moretown taxpayer because he proposed that his property values might go down if the quarry was built.
The select board appears to be able to reduce our property values with no assistance from any outside business. Her calculation shows a $1 million loss over 33 years. That is roughly $30,000 per year. We doubt this number, based on other quarries, but even if her calculation were correct the Moretown quarry is estimated to save the town $25,000 per year in gravel trucking costs. We are currently driving through other peoples' neighborhoods and using more gas and emissions than we need to get the materials we need in our area.
Don Wexler said, "It was unfair to single out the select board." As mentioned, the select board has the authority to override any DRB decision and has done so in the past. The decision of the DRB on the quarry was not unanimous. Ultimately, only four of the seven members were opposed. One member voted for the quarry and two other members were opposed only because of a missing hydrology report which has since been provided and accepted by the court. This is all a matter of public record.
In August of 2004, four months after the Rivers' quarry application was submitted, the select board passed an Interim Bylaw which effectively would not allow any rock or stone extraction anywhere in Moretown.
In May of 2006, MLI (Moretown Landfill) applied for a new cell permit which would require blasting, drilling and rock and stone extraction. The board then moved to exempt the landfill from the Interim Bylaw. The town now receives 5,000 cubic yards of stone per year free from the landfill and continues to see approximately $300,000 year in tipping fees.
The landfill was also subject to the steep slopes issue brought to bare against the quarry which the courts threw out. If the select board is not careful not only will the Moretown quarry not get started but the landfill would have to shut down. While we would not want to shoot this obvious cash cow, where is it fair for the town to favor one business over another?
This has been a very emotionally charged issue for many people. There is a lot of misinformation regarding the quarry. Other towns have quarries that exist successfully within their residential areas. There will be only 12 blasts per year, visibility will be minimal to those in higher elevations and not visible to those driving the scenic byway, but these issues are not the main reason for our concern at this time.
In 2008 alone, $50,000 has been spent against a budgeted amount of $25,000. The total spent to date is more than 12.5 percent of our annual budget. We are calling for an immediate stop to spending on this issue. The select board needs to withdraw our town from this issue and the let the state environmental court determine the viability of the project.
Jack Wood on behalf of the Moretown Taxpayers for Common Cents.