Halifax sued over quarry

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HALIFAX — A lawsuit was filed against the town after the Zoning Board of Adjustment denied a conditional use permit for a schist quarry project long opposed by many residents.

Permit applicant Russell Denison is looking for the permit to be issued immediately after filing a lawsuit for declaratory judgment.

"He's suing the town because of the decision that the ZBA made," Selectboard Chairman Lewis Sumner said Monday following an executive session with town attorney Bob Fisher in which no decisions were made. "We'll announce (what the Selectboard is doing in response) at a future meeting."

The town has 20 days from Nov. 20 to file an answer to Denison's complaint.

According to the lawsuit, Denison said the permit application was accepted by the town on April 14 but the town took no action until May 21.

"The notice indicated that the purpose of the hearing (scheduled for June 9) was to consider the request of C.A. Denison Lumber Company, Inc. for conditional use permit. The notice did not indicate whether the administrative officer had denied the application or referred the application to the ZBA," the lawsuit stated. "Defendant (the town) issued findings of fact and conclusions of law... The decision concludes that the project did not comply with conditional use standards. The decision does not address site plan review."

The lawsuit goes on to claim that the town failed to provide notice as to whether action was taken within 30 days of the application being received and therefore the project should receive conditional use approval. Previous court case outcomes were cited.

This legal action was made in addition to Denison's appeal made to Environmental Court over the ZBA's decision. The Selectboard will be involved in that process too but Sumer had no timeline. A letter coming from Montpelier indicated a court venue would be chosen in close proximity to Halifax.

"They said they'll let us know in the near future," said Sumner. "Bob (Fisher) said they won't announce that until the first of the year because the holidays are coming right up on us here."

A group of 18 concerned residents have filed a cross-appeal to Environmental Court, including Sue Kelly who previously told the Reformer she expects a decision from the state's District Environmental Commission regarding an Act 250 permit before the court decides on the appeal. The last of several Act 250 hearings, which mostly address the project's environmental impacts, was held in March.

The ZBA decision, issued on Oct. 17, said construction and operation of a schist quarry would have constituted a "resource industry" activity. The project would require a conditional use permit. Noise and little positive economic impact for Halifax were cited for denying a permit to Denison. He planned to allow Ashfield Stone co-owner Jerry Pratt use of 14.5 of his approximately 1,210 acres on Jacksonville Stage Road for extracting schist to make counter tops, fireplaces, chimneys, cabinets and tiles. Elimination of habitat and natural resources was also worrisome to the ZBA, which said the quarry would degrade the character of the conservation district.

Contact Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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