Traffic, blasting discussed at gravel-pit hearing

Thursday January 31, 2013

DUMMERSTON -- Officials have spent years developing plans for a new gravel pit that would serve Dummerston and Putney for decades.

And they've also spent many hours working with nearby residents, tweaking plans to address concerns about noise and vibration.

All those efforts appeared to have paid off Wednesday as the two towns and two landowners cruised through a short and amicable Act 250 permitting hearing.

Michael Bernhardt, who chairs the District 2 Environmental Commission that oversaw the hearing, praised all involved for working out any major issues beforehand.

"This is a perfect example of when the parties do their homework," Bernhardt said.

The towns have a long-term partnership for gravel supplies, but the current pit -- off Route 5 in Dummerston -- is running low. So officials have partnered with Vernon-based Renaud Gravel Inc. to propose a new pit on adjacent land near Hidden Acres Campground.

Renaud and the towns would split the gravel pulled from the new pit.

As part of the plan, the current gravel pit -- owned by SB Lands Partnership -- would expand toward the Renaud site and would continue to operate for several additional years.

After holding two lengthy hearings, Dummerston's Development Review Board approved the projects last year.

But nothing can move forward without clearing the state's Act 250 process. The Renaud pit needs a new Act 250 permit, while the SB Lands pit permit must be amended.

Cory Frehsee of Brattleboro-based Stevens & Associates told the environmental commission that the gravel agreements between the towns and Renaud are "going to save taxpayers a significant amount of money."

Frehsee also said town officials have worked hard to alleviate concerns raised by residents of Poplar Commons, a group of homes near the proposed pit.

"The project was significantly revised in order to mitigate those concerns to the best of our ability," he said.

Kelly McCue, a Poplar Commons representative who attended Wednesday's meeting, raised no objections to the gravel plans as they now stand.

But Frehsee fielded questions from Bernhardt and fellow commission member Julia Schmitz on several topics including:

-- Traffic: Frehsee said there is 500 feet of sight distance in each direction from the Renaud pit entrance.

He also reiterated that the current access to the SB Lands pit will remain unchanged. Access to the Renaud pit will be through the ABF Trucking site, which also is owned by Renaud.

-- Noise: Frehsee said he is "confident" that any excess noise from pit operations can be mitigated to meet governmental standards.

"We have completed a noise study," Frehsee said. "We have done a lot of research."

-- Blasting: Frehsee said each gravel operation is requesting 30 days of blasting annually. But he said the actual, combined total could be less than 60 if resources are shared between the pits.

Also, the involved parties have agreed to 48-hour advance notice for blasting as well as an extensive blast-monitoring plan designed to protect Poplar Commons homeowners.

"Certainly, we don't want to affect septic tanks or homes," Frehsee said.

-- Reclamation: Dummerston Selectboard member Tom Bodett said a gravel tariff will feed a reclamation fund held by the town, and reclamation of the Renaud pit will happen on a "rolling basis" as extraction progresses.

"There will always be cash there for reclamation," Bodett said.

He also said there is a reclamation fund for the SB Lands pit.

It's not clear when the environmental commission will rule on the gravel projects. But Bernhardt indicated that permits could be granted soon after a few loose ends are tied up.

The commission will issue a "recess memo" to clarify those remaining issues.

"The faster we get a response on that recess memo, the more expeditiously this commission can act," Bernhardt said.

Mike Faher can be reached at or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.


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