OFFICE OF THE SELECTBOARD
OFFICE OF THE PLANNING COMMISSION
Town of Halifax, Vermont
SELECTBOARD/PLANNING COMMISSION SPECIAL MEETING MINUTES
March 6, 2015
The District #2 Environmental Commission opened the second session of the public hearing on Act 250 Application #2W1318–C.A. Denison Lumber Co. and Ashfield Stone, at 9:39 a.m., March 6th, in the Selectboard Meeting Room of the Brattleboro Town Offices. Commissioner Leslie Hanafin chaired the hearing as Stephan Morse was unable to attend. Commissioner 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, and Halifax Planning Commission member Stephan Chait were also present. Edwards and Chait acted as spokespersons for their respective Boards throughout the day. Alyssa Sabetto (Windham Regional Commission), Jennifer Mojo (Vermont Agency of Natural Resources), several expert witnesses, and a number of Halifax residents with party status or an interest in the proceedings were also in attendance.
Leslie Hanafin listed the criteria to be considered this day, as follows: 8(a) Wildlife, 1(a) Air Pollution, 8 Aesthetics, 10 Town and Regional Plans, 5 Traffic, and 9(k) Public Investments. After participants were sworn in, Adam Crary of Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc. (VHB), addressing Criterion 8(a), outlined his findings related to deer wintering areas, wetlands, and black bear foraging habitat at the proposed quarry site. (See Exhibit 13 on the ANR web site.) He described the various steps the applicant would take to minimize any potential impact on those areas. Attorney David Grayck had no questions. Forrest Hammond, a Vermont Fish and Wildlife biologist with extensive credentials, had also explored the property several times. He described it as a low density deer area; when he walked the land in deep snow he found little evidence that deer were utilizing the acreage. He did see bobcat and fisher tracks, and one moose, but no rare species. Hammond went on to describe the 23-acre softwood protection area which would be left intact for deer, and spoke of the advantage of clear-cut areas which permit low growth such as blackberries good for foraging. The applicants plan to gate off an old logging road seasonally to prevent access and leave wildlife undisturbed. Hammond said the largest fragmentation issue on the property was the long-established logging road; the proposed use of the road would not increase that fragmentation much. In conclusion, Hammond stated he did not find the proposed project would disturb critical habitat or result in a reduction of wildlife. Rock quarries, he said, do not have the same impact as gravel pits. Again, Attorney Grayck had no questions, but Hammond responded to a number of queries from the floor, including whether animals would stay away due to quarry activity, an inquiry about potential impact on the caddisfly, a request for specifics on the area reviewed in considering critical habitat, whether birds and reptiles had been included in the study, and a question about the recent logging operation’s impact on wildlife. Other discussion covered statutory definition of critical habitat and the state’s means of tracking activities on Act 250 permitted sites.
Following a five-minute recess, Tyler Gingras, with VHB, joined the hearing by speaker phone to respond to ANR queries on criteria 2 and 3 (water), and 4 (soil erosion). VHB has submitted amended Sheets C-2, 4, and 5 and Exhibits 40 and 41 addressing ephemeral stream relocation, fines quantity, sedimentation in stormwater ponds, and potential impact on groundwater. (See the ANR web site to view these materials.) The subject of fines—quantity and composition—received much attention. Nicholas Bartenhagen introduced as evidence samples of fines he had collected when test holes were drilled. Jerry Pratt spoke of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety monitoring and regulations to which operations such as the proposed quarry must adhere.
Criterion 1 was next on the agenda after a lunch break. Attorney Chris Nordle stated that the six conditions proposed by the Vermont Air Quality and Climate Division were all agreeable to the applicant.
Eddie Duncan, Director at RSG in White River Junction, Vermont, opened consideration of acoustics, under Criterion 8, with a description of the noise assessment study done on the proposed quarry site. (See Exhibits 18 and revised Exhibit 28 on the ANR web site.) The study concluded there would be no undue noise impacts from the proposed quarry operation. Duncan responded to questions from the floor related to details of saw, truck, and rock hammer noise. A number of abutters and nearby neighbors stated their concerns with any level of sound above that which presently is common to the area.
Tyler Gingras returned briefly on speaker phone to respond to a question from Debra Foster regarding lining of the stormwater ponds and potential leach impacts.
David Grayck introduced Les Blomberg, Executive Director of the Noise Pollution Clearinghouse in Montpelier, Vermont. Blomberg gave a powerpoint presentation detailing several areas of concern with the previously mentioned noise assessment study, and questioned the accuracy of that study’s input data, citing conflicting calculations of total estimated extraction quantities from the quarry. Jason Dolmetsch, MSK Engineering and Design, Bennington, Vermont, gave detail on the means used to calculate extraction data. Blomberg’s presentation materials are available in Exhibits 79 and 80 on the ANR web site. After Nordle and Duncan offered response to Blomberg’s statement, Commissioner Hanafin called for a five-minute break.
Consideration of Criterion 10, Town and Regional Plan, commenced with Nordle identifying those portions of the application addressing the Town Plan as Exhibits 31, 32, and Schedule B. Alyssa Sabetto, Windham Regional Commission, listed the ten points of concern WRC found relating to the application’s compliance with the Regional Plan. (See Exhibits 35A, 37, and 70 on the ANR web site.) Mineral extraction on resource lands, she explained, is not prohibited, but neither is it encouraged. Edee Edwards spoke to the Town Plan, first reading a motion approved at a joint meeting of the Halifax Selectboard and Planning Commission on February 26, 2015, allowing the two board’s representatives to state at this present hearing that they find the quarry application is not, in some sections, in compliance with the Town Plan. Stephan Chait then gave detail of the board’s findings. (See Exhibit 77 on the ANR web site.)
Nordle itemized the exhibits relating to Criterion 5, Traffic. Grayck initially requested that Exhibits 29 and 30 not be admitted, as they were unsigned and no sponsoring witness was present. Nordle stated that Jerry Pratt was qualified to respond to questions on those exhibits. The Commission ruled that Exhibit 29 would not be admitted, but Grayck ultimately stipulated admission with an acknowledgment of limited qualifications. Pratt then offered information regarding the proposed truck route, number of trucks per day, truck size and weight, and his experience with trucking and quarries. He had originally intended to lease trucks for stone hauling, but given the town’s preference for a smaller truck is now planning to purchase a truck. Concerns were voiced, in particular, about truck traffic on Stark Mountain Road. Edwards reviewed proposed truck route data submitted to the Environmental Commission by the Halifax Selectboard (see Exhibit 30, ANR web site). After Pratt responded to Edwards’ comments Grayck introduced Michael Oman of Oman Analytics, Burlington, Vermont, who gave a traffic safety-oriented presentation covering sight distances, roadway width, traffic volume, speed, culvert impact, and weight. (See Exhibits 86 and 87 on the ANR web site.)
In addressing 9(k) Public Investments, Edwards expressed her concerns with potential increased costs, given the town’s limited budget.
Commissioner Hanafin advised the hearing would not be adjourned, but would go into recess; possibly another recess memo would be issued.
The hearing was recessed at approximately 5:25 p.m.
Selectboard/Planning Commission Secretary