DUMMERSTON -- More than two hours into a gravel-pit hearing Tuesday, Development Review Board member Lew Sorenson acknowledged that it had been a long night.
"I’d like to thank everyone for the civil discourse," Sorenson said. "This has been long and tedious."
He then proceeded to ask several more questions.
Tuesday’s meeting was indicative of what has been a drawn-out, highly detailed process as the towns of Dummerston and Putney and two private landowners seek approvals for a controversial new gravel pit and modifications to the towns’ current pit.
It was the second of two review board hearings on the matter, and the board has 45 days to issue a formal ruling. But all parties involved seem to have resolved differences while also trying to satisfy the review board’s requests.
"We feel like we’ve spent a lot of time working with everyone, trying to meet their needs," said Cory Frehsee of Brattleboro-based Stevens & Associates.
The engineering firm has been helping to present the case for a new pit that would keep Dummerston and Putney supplied with gravel for 25 years or more. The operation would be on land owned by Renaud Gravel Inc. off Route 5 near Hidden Acres campground.
Also included in the application is an expansion of the current gravel pit owned by SB Lands Partnership. Officials expect excavation there to continue southward toward the proposed Renaud pit for
The pit proposal initially caused friction with residents of Poplar Commons, a nearby housing development. But two residents who attended Tuesday’s meeting said they were, for the most part, satisfied with the project as it now stands.
"The level of negotiation and compromise has been really good," said Jeff Unsicker, a Poplar Commons homeowner.
However, even after long-term Poplar Commons negotiations and a lengthy review board hearing last month, there was plenty of unfinished business going into Tuesday’s meeting.
Officials discussed issues including traffic, noise and the legal agreements between the towns and Renaud Gravel:
- Members of the review board had requested a lease between the towns and Renaud, but Dummerston Selectboard member Tom Bodett said that wasn’t the right term.
"Lease is a bit of a misnomer," Bodett said. "What we have is an agreement to purchase gravel."
The pit, operated by Dummerston, will produce 30,000 cubic yards of gravel annually. Renaud is expected to take 15,000 cubic yards, with the towns dividing the other 15,000.
- Responsibility for reclamation of the gravel pit will fall to the towns and to Renaud, officials said. The agreement "speaks to sharing the costs of reclamation," Frehsee said.
- Average truck traffic from the new Renaud pit has been estimated at 20 round trips per day. Those trucks exclusively will use an existing commercial road at ABF Trucking to access Route 5.
On Tuesday, Frehsee clarified that, at busy times of year, truck traffic could jump to as many as 100 trips daily.
"Inevitably, we’re going to have three parties hauling gravel at the same time," Frehsee said.
He added that, cumulatively, "it’s not a lot of truck trips on a yearly basis. But there are spikes."
- For that same reason, Frehsee said "it would not work" to cap truck trips at 30 per day as had been requested by residents.
- The applicants could not yet produce a final noise report. But Frehsee said that document is expected soon, and he said planners are "confident that the noise will be adequately mitigated."
- Frehsee previously had said the permit applicants had agreed to enhanced reviews of pit operations by the board.
On Tuesday, Steve Casabona, president of the Poplar Commons Homeowners Association, said residents are not asking for excessive levels of review board oversight.
"We never intended (to request reviews) every two years for the next 30 years," Casabona said. "But we are asking for some sort of reviews in the future."
Addressing the board, Casabona added: "I think it behooves you folks to pin that down."
Mike Faher can be reached at email@example.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.