Hermitage Club charged with permit violations
This story was updated at 1 p.m. on Feb. 26 to include a statement posted on the Herimitage's website.
WILMINGTON >> Construction and other development-related activities have the Hermitage Club in hot water.
According to a lawsuit filed by the Vermont Attorney General's Office, the group allegedly performed construction activities without land use permits; failed to comply with existing permit conditions; performed construction activities without a stormwater permit; discharged into state waters without a permit; constructed a building without a wastewater and potable water supply permit; altered a dam without authorization; and disturbed a significant wetland without approval.
The group owns and operates a private ski resort at Haystack Mountain as well as a nearby golf course and inn.
"Defendants engaged in extensive construction and development activities at the property without necessary state approvals," the document stated.
The state claimed Hermitage Club was told a stormwater construction permit was needed in 2011 when seven single family homes were being constructed and snowmobile paths were being relocated and created. Bridges to cross streams were also constructed while trees were cut and clear.
"Hermitage Inn obtained the Low Risk permits after-the-fact for these," the lawsuit stated. "In the fall of 2012, Hermitage Inn removed additional trees and vegetation. The tree cutting ... took place within a Class 2 forested wetland and buffer zone of an unnamed tributary to Cold Brook."
According to a statement published on the Hermitage's website, the mitigation work that was approved by the department was completed as soon as it was approved in the summer of 2013.
"Although the Hermitage didn't agree with the allegations we agreed to 100% mitigation at our expense." said Jim Barnes, President, Hermitage Inn Real Estate Holding Company.
Barnes further added "we were surprised and disappointed when the State took further action to seek fines in addition to the mitigation plan. We further couldn't understand the basis underpinning the penalties provided. The Hermitage continued further dialogue and although disagreeing with the penalties proposed, offered a thoughtful proposal to settle this issue which was since not accepted. The Hermitage continues in its plan to meet with State officials to try to arrive at a workable agreement."
The statement posted on its website also noted "We at The Hermitage are disappointed that the Vermont Attorney General's office and the Vermont Natural Resources Board have found it necessary to pursue this matter in court rather than working with us to find a solution. We intend to continue to work with the State of Vermont in an effort to resolve these issues without the need for further litigation. However, if we are unable to reach a resolution that addresses the State's concerns while allowing us to continue to develop and operate our property in an environmentally responsible and reasonable manner, we will vigorously defend ourselves against the State's claims."
Between 2011 and 2014, the state claimed portions of construction projects connected with the ski resort were done without state permits which address environmental and other concerns. The state said a permit regarding a wind turbine's construction and electrical work in October 2012 was obtained in September 2013. Other "unauthorized work" involved excavating for a beginner slope, construction of a summit building, construction of a snowmaking line and construction of a ski lift.
During a November 2012 site visit, District Environmental Commission Stormwater Analyst Kevin Burke said he observed unauthorized soil and earth disturbance associated with construction near the beginner slope and ski lifts. He also noted a failure to mark construction limits and set up required fencing.
In December that same year, the Vermont Superior Court Environmental Division issued an order to the group to cease all unauthorized construction activities and comply with all Agency of Natural Resource permitting requirements. According to the lawsuit, the defendants had then entered into a remediation process, replanting trees and vegetation as well as removing unauthorized bridges, stream crossings and trails.
During June 2014, the state claimed the group converted a snowmaking pond known as Mirror Lake into a recreation area and applied for a permit after constructing docks, boat racks and a beach area. Around the same time, a pump house, poles for power lines and a parking lot were allegedly constructed without a permit.
The state is seeking civil penalties of no more than $85,000 for each violation and no more than $42,500 for each day a violation continued. The state is also asking the group to retain an environmental compliance officer and make periodic reports to ANR and the Natural Resource Board.
Hermitage Club officials did not respond to requests for comment.
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