Fenn pit decision timetable set

MIDDLEBURY — Almost two years after Ronald and Susan Fenn filed an application to develop a gravel pit on their land off Route 116 in Middlebury, and 10 months after the Development Review Board opened hearings on the application, the body formally closed the hearing on Monday.
The DRB now must approve or deny the application within 45 days. If it fails to issue a decision the application is automatically approved.
The Fenns seek to run a gravel extraction business on 16 acres of a 70-acre parcel not far from the Lindale mobile home park. An access road to the pit would have an entrance onto Route 116 just north of Quarry Road. Neighbors have argued that the DRB should deny the pit application on many grounds, including that it would create unsafe driving conditions in the area; bring dust, toxic fumes and noise pollution to a residential area; and would violate zoning laws.
Middlebury Planner Fred Dunnington noted that the DRB held 11 hearings in the case, heard from five traffic experts and received an enormous amount of documentation from both the applicants and opponents.
“This is a very complex case, there have been more hearings than for the Staples case last year,” he said.
The board will hold closed deliberations. Dunnington said board members will have an easier time concentrating on the complex case without members of the public in the room. He noted that any vote by the board on the ultimate decision must be public, and that the board will explain something of how it got to its opinions.
“The board feels that all the parties are owed not just the results of their deliberations but also the reasons behind those results,” Dunnington said.
The board initially will meet with the town attorney to discuss any legal issues and ask questions. The board members then will painstakingly weigh the mountain of evidence.
Dunnington, who is not on the DRB but is an expert assigned to help in the process, said the seven board members have taken their task very seriously.
“You could see they (the DRB) were trying to weigh the conflicting information given them,” he said.
“The board gave no clear indication of what they will decide,” Dunnington continued. “Ask me again on Sept. 23.

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