Supreme Court nixes Monkton gravel pit

MONKTON — The Vermont Supreme Court called “case closed” on a proposed blasting and gravel crushing operation in Monkton that’s been in dispute since first proposed in early 2012.
The court last month ruled in favor of the town of Monkton against Allan and Michael Brisson, of Brisson Stone LLC, and reaffirmed an earlier decision by the Environment Court to deny Brisson Stone’s application.
Brisson Stone first approached the Monkton Development Review Board in early 2012, seeking a permit to operate a 36-acre gravel quarry on a portion of a 324-acre plot they owned at 1535 Monkton Road. The proposed site contained no natural gravel deposits. Instead Brisson Stone proposed to drill and blast ledge and crush that into gravel at the site — a distinction that would prove important over the four-year-long history of the case.
The Brissons applied for their permit Jan 2012, making their permit subject to Monkton bylaws that permitted soil, sand, or gravel extraction but not quarrying. New zoning ordinances passed soon thereafter in February 2012, prohibiting all commercial mining and/or extraction in Monkton.
After a series of hearings that begin in April 2012 and ended in January 2013, the Monkton Development Review Board issued a decision denying Brisson Stone’s application to operate the proposed quarry, saying that earlier ordinances permitted extraction of naturally occurring gravel but not the drilling, blasting and crushing of ledge rock to create gravel.
Brisson Stone appealed to the state Environmental Court on two grounds: one substantive and one procedural. Brisson Stone asked the Environmental Court to reverse the Development Review Board’s earlier decision on the grounds that their proposed operation did meet the relevant Monkton zoning ordinances. They also asked that the project be approved because, they said, the DRB had failed to issue a written decision within 45 days, thus making their project “deemed approved,” according to Vermont law. The Environmental Court denied Brisson’s appeal on both counts, and the matter then went before the Vermont Supreme Court.
On Feb. 12, the Supreme Court upheld Monkton’s definition of gravel extraction as relating to the extraction of naturally occurring beds of gravel, but not a drilling, blasting and crushing operation, such as the one the Brissons had proposed. The court also ruled both that the Monkton DRB had issued its written decision within the 45-day window and that, regardless, even projects approved by the “deemed approval” mechanism could be opposed on their own merits.
Monkton selectboard Chair Stephen Pilcher said that he was pleased that the Supreme Court upheld the Environmental Court’s and the Monkton Development Review Board’s decision, and said the town of Monkton had since February 2012 put a moratorium on gravel extraction until it could comprehensively locate gravel resources and come up with a plan that would benefit the whole town.
Reporter Gaen Murphree is at [email protected].

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