Questions linger over Halifax quarry


HALIFAX -- Questions about a proposed quarry still remain at both the local and state levels.

"We got an e-mail saying the district environment folks asked for five more pieces of information to be submitted," said Selectboard member Edee Edwards. "They're saying the application is not complete yet."

On April 15, the board discussed the project and process. Applications for Act 250 permits were submitted by property owner Russell Denison, who is seeking to develop a quarry. It is a project to which many residents are opposed.

Currently, a large binder containing maps and details for the project is available for review at the Halifax Town Offices. The Selectboard is in the process of making those documents available online.

"We're trying to figure out how to increase accessibility to information," said Edwards.

Board Chairman Lewis Sumner said he believed the application for a local permit was e-mailed to the commission.

Remaining fair and impartial during these types of processes came up during a recent meeting at the Selectboard Institute, which Sumner and Edwards attended. A situation that could possibly be considered ex parte communication was questioned. After looking at documents about the project on April 4, Edwards was approached by an abutter of the property, who inquired bout a noise study that was conducted for the project. The abutter had comments during the encounter.

"My question is do you feel that was an ex parte question ... which we're supposed to say, 'We're not supposed to discuss it'?" asked Edwards.

She told the board she was trying to be fair throughout the process.

"The issue is, have we been paneled into a quasi-judicial situation already and the answer is no. Consequently, we're not taking ex parte testimony," said Selectboard member Earl Holtz. "Worst case scenario should be, if you have an opinion that's one way or another, you recuse yourself for the Zoning Board of Adjusters or in (Environmental) Court."

There were questions of how involved the Selectboard could be in Planning Commission hearings regarding the application. Edwards was curious about how much communication between the board and commission would be necessary, desirable and undesirable.

At a recent commission meeting, she said she would find out whether it made sense to go through the application "as a dual board."

"I'm not sure what we're allowed to do or not allowed to do," added Edwards.

She told the board she would ask Vermont League of Cities and Towns if it would be a problem for both groups to hold a joint meeting to go through the application. If allowed, a meeting will be scheduled.

Edwards also expressed a desire to let the state know the amount of interest shown by residents.

"I think it would be a little odd for us not to acknowledge the amount of interest. All 10 sides, really," she said. "I think it's worth sharing with the Act 250 people, saying, 'Hey, this is a big deal for us.' We're a small town. We need to figure out a way to make this work the best way we can."

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.


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