Permit problems plague ‘Stack
by Mike Eldred
Dec 27, 2012 | 7352 views | 4 4 comments | 25 25 recommendations | email to a friend | print
WILMINGTON- Last week, a Vermont Environmental Court judge issued an order halting any construction at the Hermitage Club and Haystack Ski Area not covered by existing permits, until the proper permits are in hand. Judge Thomas Durkin also ordered the Hermitage Club to take steps to stabilize areas of “exposed or disturbed” earth, including an unauthorized snowmobile trail, within 10 days of his December 18 order.

According to the court’s findings, on several occasions between October and December inspectors from the state found construction activity that was in excess of that allowed under Haystack’s “Low Risk Construction General Permits” issued by the state. Also on several occasions, inspectors or engineers reported “sediment laden” stormwater runoff from a construction site running into nearby streams. During one inspection, an environmental analyst with the Agency of Natural Resources Watershed Management Division found runoff flowing into an “unnamed tributary to Haystack Brook, a state water,” according to the court findings.

State officials warned Hermitage and Haystack personnel that the unauthorized work should cease on at least three occasions. During a December 12 inspection, according to the findings, ANR Environmental Analyst Ryan McCall spoke to Hermitage Club Vice President Bob Rubin, advising him that the work not authorized under their existing permits should stop. “At that time, he (Rubin) advised Mr. McCall that the work on the property would not stop unless directed to stop.”

According to a press release issued by the Hermitage Club, the development company was “operating with all permits in hand” except for the “Moderate Risk Construction General Permit” for Haystack, which they had applied for in August and had been told was forthcoming.

The permit was, in fact, issued within days of Durkin’s order, on December 20. According to Hermitage Club President Jim Barnes, the earth disturbance activities were only halted under the order for a few hours. “As earth work was already 95% complete, we basically stopped earth work for three hours, from 2 to 5 pm on December 19. Earth work resumed the next morning when the permit was issued.” Permitted construction was not halted, Barnes said.

The court’s findings also focused on a 1.25-mile snowmobile trail that runs through conservation land, in violation of the Hermitage Club’s Act 250 land use permit. The 27-acre conservation parcel is located on the south side of the ski area, just below the Gandalf lift. The land was set aside as part of the Act 250 agreement to conserve bear-scarred American beech, prime black bear habitat.

According to Environmental Commission District II assistant coordinator Stephanie Gile, who inspected the trail, it runs from Haystack, through the 27-acre conservation parcel, and continues into Green Mountain National Forest land. Last week, the National Forest Service closed a section of land between the conservation parcel and Haystack Pond to motor vehicle traffic because of the unauthorized trail construction.

Gile says the trail work was clearly recent, and was carried out despite clearly marked boundaries around the conservation land. She says the damage is significant. “In some areas, it’s as wide as 15 feet,” she says. “Some of it is pretty steep, with loose soil, and there aren’t any erosion controls.” Although snowmobile tours are permitted under the Hermitage Club’s Act 250 permit, construction of new trails was among several uses specifically not approved.

Judge Durkin’s order specifies that the Hermitage Club must “abandon the trail, and shall not use or allow any person to use any portion of the trail for any purpose” until all pertinent permits are obtained.

Barnes attributes the trail construction to unnamed individuals, and says the Hermitage isn’t seeking a permit to use it. “The trail work that was done by individuals through the conservation area is not part of the Hermitage permit process,” Barnes said. “The Hermitage currently does not have any plans for permitting this trail and is cooperating on this investigation.” The Forest Service continues to investigate the trail construction.
Comments-icon Post a Comment
Deb Bernstein
January 01, 2013
Can anyone explain to me why Barnes or anyone else involved with the unpermitted construction does not get fined???!?!?!?
John Jackson
December 30, 2012
Barnes is a horrible business person who should be held accountable for his actions! Basically he is saying he knew about it yet did nothing and allowed it to happen! Stop making excuses and do things the correct way!
nancy schultz
December 30, 2012
Or, you could take the other position, which is: some people think the rules don't apply to them. In this case, it's due to greed. These guys have instituted over the top membership fees to "a select few" who don't own property there(a min of $25,000, plus $5,000 a year, for one person). They obviously don't want "our kind" on their hill. The place would get a lot more support from the rest of us if it were more reasonable.
Harry Smedlap
December 29, 2012
Welcome to Vermont the world's largest outdoor insane asylum.

Why would anyone risk their capital to have a business in Vermont? Why would anyone subject themselves to genuflecting before some two-bit bureaucrat for permission to ride a snowmobile on their OWN property.

Protect the beech trees for bears? Give me a break.

Like every other entrepreneur that has come to the Valley its only a matter of time till they 'Go GALT'

If you know who John Galt is no explanation is necessary, if you don't no explanation is possible.

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