Fenns appeal gravel pit denial

MIDDLEBURY — Members of the Fenn family have decided to appeal to the Vermont Environmental Court the Middlebury Development Review Board’s denial of their application for a proposed gravel pit off Route 116.
Records on file at the Middlebury town office show Burlington-based attorney Mark Hall filed an appeal on behalf of Ronald and Susan Fenn with the Environmental Court on Sept. 29 — exactly one week after the DRB issued its 13-page denial of the proposed 16-acre pit, slated for a 70-acre parcel that was to be accessed via a new access road off Route 116 a short distance north of Quarry Road. The applicants had 30 days in which to file an appeal.
The Fenns’ notice of appeal listed no reasons for the action. A call seeking comment from Hall on Tuesday went unreturned as the Addison Independent went to press on Wednesday.
Middlebury Town Planner Fred Dunnington said the Fenns’ reasons for appeal will come to light later as the Environmental Court gathers information for its review of the case, which will be done “on the record.” That means that the court will not accept any new evidence and will only consider written, oral and video testimony garnered during the DRB’s two-year review of the application.
In its 13-page decision, the DRB concluded the Fenn proposal failed to comply with eight different sections of Middlebury’s zoning and subdivision regulations, including those pertaining to test wells for soil, sand or gravel removal; buffers; noise; aquifer protection areas; access limitations on principal town and state highways; town plan conformance; undue, adverse effect on aesthetics; and undue, adverse effect on the neighborhood.
The decision was endorsed by DRB members Ted Davis, Skip Brush, Pat Berry and Adam Portz. Voting in opposition were members Gary Baker and Scott Foster, while member Lewis Holmes did not participate in the decision.
The DRB’s verdict was welcomed by many residents of the Mead Lane, Butternut Ridge Drive, Drew Lane, Lindale Circle and Route 116 areas who contended the pit would have violated local zoning laws; brought dust, toxic fumes and noise pollution to a residential area; and set up the potential for collisions between trucks entering and exiting the site and motorists and cyclists negotiating a curving stretch of Route 116.
Residents were disappointed to learn the Fenns have decided to appeal the DRB denial.
“We have not received notice of an appeal and are not aware of the specifics,” neighbors Ron Kohn and Barbara Shapiro said in a written statement. “But given the applicant’s sworn testimony showing that this application fails to meet basic safety requirements and quality-of-life criteria of Middlebury’s zoning regulations, we are confident the DRB’s denial of a permit to operate an open pit mine in a residentially zoned district will be upheld.”
Neighbor David Bumbeck also questioned the reasoning behind an appeal.
“They have no justification to pursue this, in light of the town’s laws and the greater issue of universal humanitarian laws,” said Bumbeck, voicing particular concern about how the project might affect the neighborhood’s aesthetic beauty and historic assets, such as the Clinton Smith Schoolhouse on Route 116.
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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