Carrara pit expansion gets OK

EAST MIDDLEBURY — While the Middlebury Development Review Board (DRB) continues to gather testimony on the Fenn gravel pit proposal on Route 116 (see related story), the board recently issued a conditional use permit to a less controversial pit proposal off the east side of School House Hill Road.
The property in question is owned by J.P. Carrara & Sons. Plans call for Carrara to extend its existing 20.4-acre sand and gravel pit by 8.5 acres onto an abutting parcel the company owns to the east. The balance of the land, 30.5 acres, is to be left as undisturbed woods.
Area residents voiced concerns that the pit expansion could add more truck traffic, noise, dust and exhaust fumes to the neighborhood. But Carrara officials, neighbors and environmental experts selected by both sides worked collaboratively to produce a plan that ultimately earned a conditional use permit from the DRB.
“It was probably one of the most frustrating but rewarding things I have ever been a part of,” Susan Shashok, one of the neighborhood leaders, said of the arduous but fulfilling process that led to the agreement.
“I’m just so proud of my neighborhood and proud of this company.”
The DRB has issued a permit that calls for, among other things:
• The first 500 feet of the pit’s access road off School House Hill Road to be paved.
• Peak truck traffic to be limited to 75 trips per day, with a maximum of 3,500 trips per year. The pit will be operate from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., with occasional extensions until 5 p.m. There is to be no hauling on holidays or weekends.
• Extraction to take place from April into December and “is dependent on favorable weather and demands at the Carrara manufacturing facilities on Route 116, where all the extracted material … is to be taken.”
• An already-approved improvement plan for School House Hill Road to be implemented before the gravel pit expansion occurs. Improvements including widening the road and adding a separated sidewalk.
• No crushing or screening at the pit, and all trucks will be equipped with noise muffling equipment.
• Landscaping and vegetation to be used to help minimize erosion and dust.
Neither the neighbors nor the developers got everything they wanted, but in the end, they got a decision they could live with.
“We are definitely very pleased with the decision and the whole outcome,” said Bill Townsend of J.P. Carrara & Sons.
“But more than the outcome itself, the process was the most valuable on many levels,” he added. “It strengthened the relationship between our company and the community in a way that allows us to work together in a positive way.”
Carrara and neighborhood representatives held dozens of meetings over many months to forge the accord. And since the environmental experts were jointly hired (Carrara paid the bill), both sides had full confidence in their reports.
“They were answerable to everyone,” Shashok said of the experts, who provided insights on the potential noise, air quality, groundwater and traffic impacts of the project.
Hashing out differences and interviewing experts at community meetings allowed Carrara officials and the neighbors to get on the same page before they got to the DRB. This helped expedite the permitting process and made the hearings less acrimonious, participants said.
“It wasn’t easy, but it wound up being something we thought was very special,” Shashok said. “It was really amazing to have so many people feel so good about it at the end.”
Middlebury Town Planner Fred Dunnington said he was impressed by the way the neighbors and developer were able to collaborate.
“For my part, in my 29 years of managing permitting review processes, this stands out as a unique case,” Dunnington said.
“These folks are rightly proud of their accomplishments — their mutual respect and community strengthening is a truly fantastic outcome from a zoning case.”

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