Fenn appeals Middlebury gravel pit ruling to Supreme Court
MIDDLEBURY — Ronald Fenn has filed an appeal with the Vermont Supreme Court in an effort to pursue a 16-acre gravel pit on his family’s property off Route 116 in Middlebury.
The legal action relates to Vermont Environmental Court Judge Thomas Durkin’s rejection of an appeal of the Middlebury Development Review Board’s (DRB) Sept. 22, 2010, decision not to permit the pit, which would be located near north and east of the intersection of Quarry Road and Case Street (also known as Route 116). Durkin issued his decision on Nov. 13. The applicants had 30 days in which to appeal the Environmental Court decision to the Vermont Supreme Court.
Fenn’s one-page appeal letter to the Supreme Court does not list reasons for the appeal.
In his 31-page decision, Durkin had sided with the DRB on seven of nine criteria the panel had cited as reasons for denying the application. The judge affirmed the DRB’s findings with respect to the proposed pit’s potential negative impacts on the character of the neighborhood; aesthetics; highway access limitations; aquifer protection areas; noise levels; setback standards; and test wells (an inadequate number).
The judge did not find enough evidence to side with the town on its argument that the proposed pit would worsen traffic hazards in the area, nor did he accept the notion that the proposal ran counter to Middlebury’s town plan, a document that he noted presents “aspirational” rather than regulatory directives.
Durkin also found that there were no procedural flaws in the DRB’s evaluation of the pit application, meaning the matter would not be remanded back to the board for a new review.
The applicant is hoping to establish a gravel pit on a portion of a 70-acre parcel the family owns. Plans called for the 16-acre pit to be excavated in four, four-acre phases over 20-30 years, during which an estimated 660,000 cubic yards of material was to be mined. The plan projected an average of 40 loaded truck trips per day, via a new access road off Route 116.
The project has drawn opposition from neighbors in the Mead Lane, Butternut Ridge Drive, Drew Lane, Lindale Circle and Route 116 areas who contend the pit would violate local zoning laws; bring dust, toxic fumes and noise pollution to a residential area; and set up the potential for collisions between trucks entering/exiting the site and motorists and cyclists negotiating busy Route 116.
Neighbor Ron Kohn is looking forward to seeing specifics of the appeal, but is optimistic the town and the neighborhood will ultimately prevail.
“The decisions of the DRB and Environmental Court were quite strong and well supported,” Kohn wrote in an e-mailed reply to a request for comment. “They will be difficult to get around.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]
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