Board explores Act 250 options on quarry permit
by Margo Avakian
Jul 01, 2014 | 4926 views | 0 0 comments | 76 76 recommendations | email to a friend | print
HALIFAX- John Bennett of the Windham Regional Commission met with the selectboard on Monday morning. Discussion centered on what the town can do to present its questions and concerns regarding the proposed quarry project in Halifax Center.

Potential impact on local roads has been one of the board’s major concerns, and there has been much discussion over whether the town should commission a traffic study. Bennett told the board that most traffic studies deal with issues such as the volume and speed of traffic and potential congestion. In this case, the board is worried about damage to culverts and road surfaces, dust, noise, and, in regard to the proposed use of Stark Mountain Road, potential safety problems. Some of those questions cannot be answered even provisionally without knowing just what type and size of trucks will be used to transport the cut stone. Bennett suggested asking the applicant for more detailed information on those points and on the projected frequency and volume of the shipments.

Bennett repeatedly urged the board to call District 2 Coordinator April Hensel with a list of all their concerns and to get her opinion on whether “the town would be well served by coughing up thousands of dollars for a traffic study.” Bennett also suggested the board ask Hensel whether a prehearing conference would be useful. Act 250 provides for such conferences to facilitate proceedings, allowing exchanges of information and concerns in a nonadversarial setting. Jesse Ferland asked if prehearing conferences are open to the public. Board member Earl Holtz pointed out that “if a majority of the board is present, it’s a public meeting.”

While much of the discussion of road impacts has centered on Stark Mountain Road, Bennett noted he would expect to see some problems at the intersection of Hall Road and Old Stage Road. Board member Edee Edwards proposed having highway supervisor Bradley Rafus assist in a survey of the whole proposed trucking route to assess road conditions and potential problems with culverts. In the ensuing discussion, Peter Silverberg told the board that a study done in the Fairbanks, AK, area has produced a formula for calculating the differential impact of heavy trucks and passenger cars. Bennett encouraged the board to “do your own work and get as informed as you possibly can.” He also suggested that the town ask for a condition on the project providing for regular inspections of the route by Rafus, with an agreement for the applicant to fund repairs if any damage can be shown to result from its trucking.

“How much weight,” asked Edwards, would information from the board and residents carry “as opposed to hearing from a traffic engineer?”

The Act 250 process, Bennett replied, “is designed to be lay-person friendly. The District Environmental Commission takes that very seriously.” Bennett reminded the board that this is a civil process, where the standard is “preponderance of evidence,” not proof beyond a reasonable doubt. As long as evidence presented is credible and reasonable within the context of the issue at hand, the commission will give it serious consideration.

Edwards asked Rafus if Vermont Local Roads has experts who can evaluate road conditions and capacity. They do, and Rafus will contact them.

Edwards volunteered to act as contact person for the quarry proceedings. The board voted to have Edwards call Hensel with its list of questions and concerns, including the possibility of scheduling the first session of the hearing on an evening or a Saturday to allow attendance by all interested residents.

In other business, emergency management director John LaFlamme told the board that he will be out of town later this week and asked who would be carrying the second pager while he is gone. Board chair Lewis Sumner, a former EMD, will take on the chore.

LaFlamme also notified the board of a meeting to discuss RERP funding for fiscal year 2016. The meeting will be held on July 25, from 10 am till 2 pm, at a location still to be determined. The board members will all attend.
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