Planning commission tackles quarry application
by Margo Avakian
Sep 01, 2014 | 2182 views | 0 0 comments | 78 78 recommendations | email to a friend | print
HALIFAX- The planning commission, meeting with John Bennett of the Windham Regional Commission, devoted over three hours to a review of the Act 250 application for a schist quarry on the Russel Denison property in Halifax Center.

Before settling down to the main business of the evening, the board welcomed new member Stephan Chaitt and heard three comments on the project. Planning commission chair Sirean LaFlamme read two letters sent by “concerned citizens.” The first letter objected to a communication from the Halifax Conservation Group, which opposes, or at least strongly questions, the proposed quarry. The second letter described a hypothetical housing development on the Denison property, apparently suggesting that things could be much worse.

The third comment came from Jacksonville Stage Road resident Judith Kotanchik, who was present at the meeting. Kotanchik told the board that her house is only 60 feet from the road over which quarry traffic will pass, a fact she did not feel was properly reflected in the sound modeling study done for the project.

Kotanchik’s primary point was that an industrial project is not suitable for the town’s zoned conservation district. That zoning, she said, was a major reason for her purchase of her property. Kotanchik cited noise, dust, wear and tear on the roads, and a generally negative impact on the character of the neighborhood and said she can see “no financial benefit to the town or to the state” from the quarry.

For the most part, the board posed questions rather than objections. Stoltzman asked how the treatment pond would be maintained. The board also wondered what provisions for storm water management provisions are planned.

Waste disposal, mainly of schist dust, also raised queries. What amounts would be shipped out, asked Edee Edwards. The applicants have said the rock dust is used by farmers as a soil amendment, noted Brian McNeice, but the clay-like quality of schist dust made him wonder why it would be valued for that use.

Bennett observed that the status of the applicants’ stream alteration permit is unknown, and gave the board contact information for the relevant state official. The requested alteration involves a six-foot-diameter, 60-foot-long culvert. “That seems large,” Bennett commented.

Stoltzman asked if there would be any site maintenance during the winter to ensure prevention of soil erosion. Edwards suggested asking the applicants to check the site on a regular basis when operations are shut down for the season.

Road and traffic concerns and possible impacts on municipal services will be handled by the selectboard, but the commissioners still had some questions. Bennett urged them to “nail down” the number and size of the trucks that will be used. Chaitt wanted specifics - models, age, maintenance routines. Bennett also noted that the number of estimated truck trips did not include trips in, only trips out. Both must be included in the total.

Bennett repeatedly called attention to the fact that saws were not described or accounted for in the noise propagation model, a significant omission. Bennett also expressed concern over the absence of a reclamation plan. Chaitt questioned the adequacy of the proposed reclamation fund, $10,000, particularly in light of the proposed 50-year lifespan of the quarry.

As for possible impacts on wildlife, Bennett opined that the Agency of Natural Resources “will likely conclude that the impact is mitigatable.”

Edwards said she thinks the applicants misread the town plan. She noted that the application cites goal 10 on page 59 of the plan as a town goal; it is in fact a state goal. The town plan’s earth and mineral extraction policies are more focused on careful regulation and on minimizing noise and other “adverse impacts on public highways, aesthetics, surface water, air quality, adjacent properties and the character of the area.” In the conservation district, the plan recommends only limited, carefully regulated development.

The village and rural residential districts are considered more suitable for industrial and commercial development.

Commissioner Margaret Stoltzman will compile a list of questions and concerns raised during the evening and email it to the rest of the board and to secretary Robbin Gabriel. The list will be posted on the town website. Board members will relay any additions or corrections to Gabriel; if it appears that another special meeting is needed, board chair Sirean LaFlamme will schedule and post one. The initial Act 250 hearing is set for Tuesday, September 9, at 5 pm.
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