Created on Thursday, 30 August 2007 08:09
Last Updated on Thursday, 30 August 2007 08:09
By Erin Post
A Moretown quarry proposal now under appeal at Vermont Environmental Court appears to be headed to trial.
Mediation earlier this month between the appellant, Richard Rivers Jr., and representatives for the town of Moretown and residents opposed to the project was unsuccessful, according to an August 23 court filing.
A schedule from the court calls for hearings to begin in February of 2008, with pre-trial preparations to continue through mid-January.
First up are site visits slated for September 24 and November 19, one when leaves are on the trees and one in winter conditions.
The goal is to observe the proposed quarry -- and smoke from small fires set on the property -- from several locations in Moretown.
Plans call for hay bales or other "smoke intensive" fires to be simultaneously set and maintained at five locations on the quarry property "for as long as necessary" to complete an itinerary approved by the court.
The applicant, town officials and other interested parties all suggested locations in and around Moretown from which to view the fires.
Stops are slated to include the Ward Swim Hole, the pull-off near the intersection of Route 100B and Stevens Brook Road, Moretown Common Road, and several residences on Old Route 100B and Route 100B.
Neighbors opposed to the project also suggested stops at Moretown Elementary School and the municipal offices, while Rivers requested that the court view the "road cuts along I-89 and along Route 100B on its way to the project site," as well as the curb cut at the intersection of Freeman Road and Route 100B.
A similar exercise involving balloons during Act 250 proceedings was unsuccessful, according to a July 18 filing from attorney Jim Caffry, who represents Rivers.
USING THE FIRES
"All sets of balloons got hung up in the surrounding trees, much to the consternation of the neighbors," the filing reads. The same document suggests using the fires as an alternative to the balloons.
Caffry said this week that tracing the source of the smoke from the different vantage points agreed to by the court should help gauge the boundaries of the proposed quarry site.
Denise Sanders, legal coordinator for the Mad River Neighborhood Association (MRNA), a group of residents opposed to the proposed quarry, suggested that the success of the site visits may still depend on wind, rain and other weather factors. Overall, the goal is to help the judge and other interested parties get a "sense of where the proposed quarry would be" in the context of the landscape.
The site visit protocol requires the applicant to contact the fire warden or other officials for the necessary authorization. Two people are required to monitor each fire: One provided by the applicant and one by the town and neighbors' group.
Observations from the site visits may be incorporated into testimony during court hearings.
Rivers' application calls for a quarry to be located on 93 acres off Route 100B about 2.5 miles north of the village of Moretown, in an area zoned agricultural/residential. The quarry would produce about 75,000 cubic yards of stone annually over the course of 33 years, according to the project application.
In January, the District Five Environmental Commission denied the project an Act 250 permit, stating that it failed to meet two of Act 250's 10 criteria. Rivers appealed that decision in March.