Neighbors seek to stop pit Middlebury proposal

MIDDLEBURY — Opponents of a proposed new, 16-acre gravel pit off Route 116 have asked the Middlebury Development Review Board (DRB) to dismiss the application in light of what they see as a major conflict with the town’s zoning rules.
And barring outright dismissal of the application, the opponents — consisting primarily of neighbors of the proposed pit — are asking the DRB to delay its review of the application to give them more time to prepare rebuttal testimony.
“The purpose of this is to save time and money,” Ron Kohn, spokesman for the opposition group, said of the motion to dismiss the application.
The DRB on Oct. 12 is scheduled to conduct its first review of Ronald and Susan Fenn’s amended application for a gravel pit on a portion of a 70-acre parcel they own off Route 116, near Quarry Road. The Fenns, who currently live in Danville, N.H., had originally pitched their plan a little more than a year ago, but withdrew it in order to respond to concerns about noise, traffic, potential impact on water supply, and other issues that had been raised by town officials and neighbors.
Plans call for the 16-acre pit to be excavated in four phases over 20-30 years, during which an estimated 660,000 cubic yards of material would be excavated. Such a plan would result in an average of 40 loaded truck trips per day, via a new access road off Route 116, which would be located approximately 120 feet north of the intersection with Quarry Road.
That new access road is at the heart of the neighbors’ argument on why the gravel pit application should be dismissed before it is even reviewed, according to neighbors. Kohn pointed to Section 705, article III of the recently amended Middlebury zoning ordinances that states: “No driveway or other means of access for vehicles, other than a public street, shall be maintained or used in any part of a residential district for the servicing of a commercial or industrial use.”
While the proposed gravel pit would be excavated in the Forest-Conservation District (where pits may be allowed as a conditional use), the access road would also bisect the Medium-Density Residential zone, noted Kohn, who called the zoning regulation a “show-stopper.”
Kohn and his colleagues filed their motions to dismiss and/or delay at the Middlebury planning office on Monday, Sept. 28. Middlebury Town Planner Fred Dunnington said he is having the town’s attorney to review the motions and advise the DRB on how best to respond to them.
Dunnington stressed that it is up to the DRB, and not town staff, to decide on the motions. He anticipates that is likely to occur on Oct. 12, when the applicants (or their representatives) are present for the panel’s first scheduled review of the project.
Messages left for the applicants’ attorney, Mark Hall, were not returned as the Addison Independent went to press on Wednesday.
Dunnington said he understands the opponents’ desire to seek a quick motion to dismiss. But he said that “as a general proposition, to deny an applicant a hearing and to do it quickly through this tactic is a severe and unusual thing to do.”
Kohn, who said his group’s position has been validated by two attorneys, argued the DRB has a legal obligation as a quasi-judicial panel to entertain the motions and render a quick decision, even if that means calling for a special meeting before Oct. 12. He said the group has a petition with “a large number of signatures” to underscore opposition. And if the DRB does not quickly dismiss the Fenn application, Kohn said he hopes the panel will give opponents enough time to prepare their own presentation on why they believe the gravel pit “shouldn’t happen.”
The DRB’s first review of the Fenn application is set for 7 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 12, in the Ilsley Library meeting room.

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