Monkton tussles over proposed 35.9-acre quarrying operation
MONKTON — The Monkton Development Review Board (DRB) is nearing a decision on whether to permit a contentious application for a 30-plus acre quarry off of Monkton Road.
According to the application filed by Brisson Stone LLC and David Shlansky’s Burchfield Management Company LLC, “Brisson Stone will rely on drilling and blasting rock ledge to produce unconsolidated rock and gravel that will be collected on-site.” Burchfield Management filed the application, and the two enterprises are working together on this project.
After Monkton zoning administrator Ken Wheeling — who is also zoning administrator for the towns of Ferrisburgh and Waltham — in late January shot down the quarry application, Burchfield appealed the decision to the town DRB.
Under the direction of town attorney Liam Murphy, the DRB declared Wheeling’s decision null and void because he had already referred the application to the board, as indicated by DRB Chair Peter Close. After more than four months of testimony by applicants and opponents to the application, Close said he thinks the DRB’s meeting on Aug. 28 at 8:35 p.m. in the town offices may be the last time the board discusses this case before it deliberates.
Burchfield submitted the quarry application on Jan. 16, 2012 — before Monkton’s new zoning ordinances took effect on Feb. 23. Under Section 460 of the new zoning ordinances, “Commercial mining or extraction operations are prohibited” everywhere in Monkton.
“There are to be no commercial mining operations at all,” said Wheeling about the intention of the new bylaws.
Since this application was submitted before the new zoning ordinances took effect, it is not subject to these regulations. It is subject to prior zoning bylaws that were in effect when the application was filed.
Under those previous bylaws, Section 564 permits the extraction of sand, soil and gravel with a range of provisions.
But opponents to this quarry are arguing that this application is not for extracting gravel, but rather, it’s for blasting large rocks into gravel.
Leading the opposition to this application is Claudia Orlandi, an abutting landowner to the Brisson property who opposes this application over what her attorney James Dumont said were environmental, noise and traffic concerns. The opposition is arguing that this application exceeds what is permitted in the town bylaws.
“We’ve made the argument that (the application) doesn’t even fall under the gravel extraction part of the ordinances,” said Dumont. “It’s a blasting and crushing operation. There is no gravel now. They are going to create crushed rock.”
The reason this argument is important is because section 240 of the old ordinances states that “any use not permitted by these Regulations shall be deemed prohibited,” and quarrying is not mentioned as an acceptable use under section 564.
Murphy pointed out this legal issue to the DRB in a March letter.
“The Brisson Stone application seems to be proposing only quarrying operations and not the digging up and removal of unconsolidated gravel and throughout its application Brisson Stone repeatedly refers to its operations (as) a ‘quarry,’” he wrote. “Brisson Stone appears to be proposing a use that is not explicitly permitted under section 564 of the 1978 Zoning Regulations and is therefore prohibited under section 240.”
Furthermore, a 2009 Vermont Environmental Court decision ruled in favor of opposing parties in a similar quarrying dispute in Randolph.
Summing up that case in the aforementioned letter to the DRB, Murphy wrote: “Because there was no separate provision permitting quarrying of stone or rock, the Court concluded that the proposed use, which would involve the quarrying of ledge rock, was not specifically permitted by the terms of the Randolph Zoning Regulations and was therefore prohibited.”
When Zoning Administrator Wheeling initially denied the quarry application, he said it had nothing to do with these legal matters.
As he understands section 316 of the zoning ordinances surrounding permit applications, he can’t issue a permit unless he has “written approval of any federal, state, county or town agency or governmental body that may be required under existing laws,” as the bylaws read. Without all of those federal, state and county permits in place, he said that he couldn’t issue the permit.
“I turned it down,” he said. “Whether it was a good use or bad use, I just didn’t have (those other) permits.”
When David Shlansky, president of Burchfield Management Company, was asked if the applicants had obtained any permits for this project, he replied: “I don’t know if we’ve obtained any.”
THE PROPOSED QUARRY
According to the application, the proposed quarry would cover 35.9 acres on the northwest portion of a 324-acre plot of undeveloped land that belongs to Allan and Michael Brisson and is located at 1535 Monkton Road.
The quarry is broken into four main components: a 20.3-acre quarry, an 8.3-acre quarry, a 4.5-acre stockpiling area and a 3,700-linear-foot access road. The larger quarry site is located about 3,700-feet from Monkton Road and the smaller site is roughly 2,500 feet away.
Based on information provided in an April 24 PowerPoint presentation to the DRB, which Shlansky said was more up to date than the original application, the total estimated duration of the project is 40 years. The proposed quarry would operate between March 15 and Dec. 15 and would crush rock a maximum of 80 days per year, drill for a maximum of 45 days, blast for a maximum of 20 days and extract no more than 50,000 cubic yards per year.
After rock is blasted, the application states that it would be moved to the stockpiling area, where it would be sold. The applicants estimate that an average of 28 truck trips would be made to the site every day.
The application proposes a number of steps to reduce dust and dirt from the site, like spraying water on the access road and quarry sites, spreading calcium chloride throughout the quarry and “attaching dust collection and water misting devices on … machinery.”
When extraction is complete, the rehabilitation plan in the application states that the developers plan to create a private lake and recreation area.
“Everybody uses gravel,” said Shlansky. “Towns and individuals are always using gravel for foundations, roads and various other things. It’s a product that people are going to use no matter what. So the question is, where is it going to come from? It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to bring it from far away. The transportation costs become prohibitive.”
Based on Burchfield’s estimates, and if the town of Monkton purchased gravel from this proposed pit, the close-proximity gravel pit would save the town of Monkton roughly 1,388 gallons of fuel per year, as it spends about $75,000 a year on gravel. Over the lifetime of the project, this estimate stretches out to a total fuel savings of 55,520 gallons for transportation associated with gravel.
Reporter Andrew Stein is at [email protected].
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