When the process works

Friday February 1, 2013

Dummerston and Putney have spent years developing plans for a new gravel pit that will serve the two towns for decades to come. Town officials partnered with Vernon-based Renaud Gravel Inc. to develop the plans, spent many hours working with nearby residents to address concerns about noise and vibration, and held lengthy hearings with Dummerston’s Development Review Board.

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.

"This is a perfect example of when the parties do their homework," said Michael Bernhardt, who chairs the District 2 Environmental Commission that oversaw the hearing.

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. During the planning process residents from the nearby Poplar Commons neighborhood raised concerns about noise and vibration issues.

"The project was significantly revised in order to mitigate those concerns to the best of our ability," Cory Frehsee of Brattleboro-based Stevens & Associates told the environmental commission.

Frehsee said he is "confident" that any excess noise from pit operations can be mitigated to meet governmental standards. On the issue of 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 nearby homeowners.

Addressing those concerns demonstrates a sincere effort to be good neighbors to those homeowners. As proof, Kelly McCue, a Poplar Commons representative who attended Wednesday’s meeting, raised no objections to the gravel plans as they now stand.

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.

Once the project is approved the gravel agreements between the towns and Renaud are expected to save taxpayers a significant amount of money.

"This pit will give the town a supply of quality gravel at a price fixed to inflation until the year 2032," Dummerston Selectboard member Tom Bodett told the Reformer recently. "Gravel is an increasingly precious resource facing wild price fluctuations -- especially with the prospect of more Irene-type weather events predicted -- and having this fixed-price local supply will save the town many hundreds of thousands of dollars."

It’s always nice when a town can find ways to save taxpayers money, especially when all the parties involved work together to resolve any issues that could have negative consequences.


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