OFFICE OF THE SELECTBOARD
OFFICE OF THE PLANNING COMMISSION
Town of Halifax, Vermont
SELECTBOARD/PLANNING COMMISSION SPECIAL MEETING MINUTES
January 23, 2015
The District #2 Environmental Commission convened its first public hearing on Act 250 Application #2W1318–C.A. Denison Lumber Co. and Ashfield Stone, at 10:00 a.m. January 23rd, in the Selectboard Meeting Room of the Brattleboro Town Offices. Commissioners Stephan Morse (Chair), Leslie Hanafin, Julia Schmitz, and District #2 Coordinator April Hensel were present, as were Jerry Pratt (applicant), Attorney Chris Nordle (representing applicant), and Attorney David Grayck (representing Susan Kelly, David Brown, Paul Taylor, Janet Eldridge-Taylor, Marilyn Allen, Nicholas Bartenhagen, and Margaret Bartenhagen, all of whom were present). Halifax Selectboard members Edee Edwards and Earl Holtz, Halifax Planning Commission members Bill Pusey, Stephan Chait, and Meggie Stoltzman were in attendance at various times throughout the proceeding. Also in attendance were Alyssa Sabetto (Windham Regional Commission), Jennifer Mojo (Vermont Agency of Natural Resources), numerous Halifax residents with party status, or as interested individuals, and others present for the purpose of offering expert testimony regarding details of the proposed project.
Stephan Morse told the gathering the hearing would be recorded, with transcripts available at requestors’ expense. The Commission had made determinations on party status and distributed a list of same. This day’s program would commence with the swearing-in of those with party status and a brief overview from the applicant, followed by discussion of Criteria 1Water Pollution, 1(A) Headwaters, 1(B) Waste Disposal, 1(E) Streams, 1(G) Wetlands, 2&3 Water Supplies, 4 Soil Erosion, and 9(E) Earth Resources and Reclamation. Morse noted the next hearing date, February 20th, might be rescheduled to February 18th; he expected that decision would be made by the end of the day.
After experts and individuals with party status were sworn in, Chris Nordle indicated on a map the size and location of the proposed project and described its planned operating schedule. Jerry Pratt then briefly explained the stone extraction and transportation process and the resulting product’s subsequent uses. Responding to audience questions, Pratt and Nordle said there would be drilling, but no blasting or crushing, identified the exact position of the access road to the site, defined “Saturday maintenance,” and discussed the size of extracted stone blocks and of transport trucks.
Information relating to the several Act 250 water criteria was presented by Tyler Gingras, an engineer with Vanesse Hangen Brustlin, Inc. (VHB). VHB is the civil engineering firm responsible for site design, environmental resources identification, site layout and permitting on the proposed Denison/Ashfield quarry project. Using maps and charts, Gingras described the research done and permits issued regarding stormwater, construction phase, MSGP (multi-sector general permit) industrial phase, and stream alteration. He then presented particulars pertinent to each of the respective criteria under review, responding to questions from the audience throughout.
Chairman Morse consistently kept participants on course, advising that numerous queries be held until the particular criterion to which they applied came under consideration. Interested parties posed many questions about the potential effects of all aspects of site activity on streams, their personal wells, and ground water. Others voiced concerns about dust resulting from drilling and vehicular movement or ground contamination from equipment fluid leakage. Gingras’ covered the following points in his presentation:
Criterion 1(A) Headwaters: The proposed quarry area is at less than 1,500 feet elevation and is not defined as a headwaters location.
Criterion 1(B) Waste Disposal: No septic or sewer is proposed for the site. A permitted porta-potty will be placed on-site and serviced every few weeks. Gingras indicated areas, including the access road and quarry site, defined as impervious and pervious, and outlined the plan developed to direct rainwater runoff and potential pollutants into stormwater catchments. Three stormwater permits have been approved and issued; one of these is under appeal.
Criterion 1(E) Streams: Gingras identified perennial, intermittent, and ephemeral streams within the quarry area, describing plans to minimize impact on streams in those locations where the watercourse could not be avoided. The primary focus was on one new installation—a six-foot culvert whose base will be lined in a way to recreate as closely as possible the characteristics of the natural streambed.
At 12:00 noon the hearing recessed for an hour lunch break, reconvening at 1:00 p.m.
Criterion 1(E) Streams (continued): Jen Mojo summarized ANR’s involvement with the stream-related portions of the project; ANR has requested some additional information from the applicant on this subject.
Criterion 1(G) Wetlands: No wetland areas are located within the proposed quarry area. Two small Class 3 wetland areas are located in the vicinity of the access road. These wetland areas and an intermittent stream conjoin; the stream will be culverted. Some minimal impact to the wetlands is expected due to culverting and attendant grading.
Criteria 2&3 Water Supplies: No well will be drilled on the site. The applicant expects to use a small amount of water for dust control and to cool the wire saw. The approximate 200 gallons per week needed will be taken from stormwater ponds or, if ponds are dry, a water tank will be brought in by pickup. Gingras offered a rough estimate of stormwater catchment volume capability as well over 30,000 cubic feet. Morse agreed to re-open the water supplies criteria (2 & 3) next hearing, to allow testimony from an expert witness not present at this day’s proceeding.
Criterion 4 Soil Erosion: Gingras described the 9020 construction phase permit, issued by ANR, which identifies potential erosion hazards, dictates what practices need to be followed during construction to minimize, prevent, and control erosion, and limits where equipment can operate during construction. Several methods of slope stabilization will be employed, the stream will be diverted during culvert placement to prevent introduction of foreign substances into the waterway, and the access road will be stabilized. During the construction phase, inspections will be conducted weekly and during storm events. Nordle specified the construction area as the new section of road to be built by the applicant between the logging road and the actual quarry site. No changes are proposed to the section of Class IV town highway known as TH52, or the existing logging road.
Following a short break, Chairman Morse called on David Grayck, who is representing a group of clients on Criteria 1-4. Grayck invited his clients to identify themselves by name, then began an extensive cross-examination of Tyler Gingras which covered his qualifications, his level of direct involvement in various phases of the VHB design project, and the design’s scope, particularly as it related to the access road. Grayck also closely questioned Gingras regarding VHB’s focus on adhering to ANR regulations, suggesting Act 250 requirements might have broader parameters than ANR’s. Gingras then addressed the final criterion on the day’s schedule.
Criterion 9(E) Earth Resources and Reclamation: Gingras explained an ongoing process of reclamation; topsoil will be removed from one bench area, stored on-site, then replaced as extraction was completed and a new bench accessed. Barrier fencing will be installed around the dropoff perimeter. He characterized the reclaimed benches as stairstep in appearance, with overburden replaced, seeded, and mulched, and rock placement to encourage bobcat habitat. When the project reaches completion large rocks and earth mounds will be positioned to prevent vehicular access to the site, the roadbed will be seeded, culverts will be removed and streambeds returned to their natural state.
Grayck asked for an explanation of the apparently high volume of extraction versus the low number of projected truck trips per day. Not all rock excavated will be suitable for use, said Pratt; some will stay on the site. Schedule A of the Act 250 application postulates a total extraction amount of 246,000 cubic yards over the 50-year life of the quarry. This translates to slightly less then 5,000 cubic yards per year.
Morse now invited testimony from Grayck, who introduced Jason Dolmetsch, an engineer with MSK Engineering and Design in Bennington, Vermont. Dolmetsch said he had reviewed the 9015, 9020, and 9003 stormwater and multi-sector general permits for the quarry application and had attended the September 9th, 2014 quarry site visit and Environmental Commission pre-hearing. He outlined concerns with respect to the operational stormwater permit, questioning the downstream point-of-discharge location chosen by the applicant’s design team. Quoting the V.S.A. Title 10, Chapter 37 definition of “waters of the state,” he questioned whether the design specifications fully met the criteria. There will be no public access to the quarry site, so the stormwater, or pocket, pond designs do not include provision for slope and safety bench requirements. Dolmetsch stated an applicant cannot waive such requirements without requesting permission to do so. Finally, off-site water will be diverted to a stream north of the site, thus changing the hydrology. This proposed alteration is not studied in the model. As benchmark monitoring is difficult on an unmanned side, Dolmetsch recommended the Environmental Commission require automatic monitoring. Benchmark monitoring samples, he explained, must be collected in the first half-hour of discharge during a point-one-inch or greater rainfall. What potential impact is there, asked Grayck, from the proposed trucking on the existing logging road? We don’t know what the base is, responded Dolmetsch. Rutting or crown degradation could lead to water quality violations.
Nordle requested a five-minute break, stating the information Dolmetsch had presented was new to him and he wished to consult with Gingras. When the hearing reconvened, an agreement was reached whereby Dolmetsch’s complete set of questions and criticisms would be filed in written form in time for review before the February hearing. The pertinent criteria will be re-opened at that time, and the applicant will have opportunity to respond. At Edee Edwards’request, applicants will also submit detail on proposed truck size and weights before the Halifax Selectboard’s January 31st meeting.
February scheduling was discussed. Morse requested information on expert witness availability be submitted to District Coordinator April Hensel. The Commission will then set either a half-day session for February 18th or a full day for February 20th, with the possibility of a third session thereafter.
The meeting recessed at approximately 4:00 p.m.
Selectboard/Planning Commission Secretary