Quarry foes offer new ordinance as Cavendish Select Board urges go-slow approach

Select Board member George Timko, in striped shirt, advises going slow on ordinance proposed by Tierney Road residents. Photo by Julia Purdy

By Julia Purdy
©2018 Telegraph Publishing LLC

The regular meeting of the Cavendish Select Board on Monday, Aug. 13 was a mix of town business-as-usual and a lengthy agenda item regarding the proposal of a special ordinance for Tierney Road by opponents of the proposed quarry.

A number of Tierney Road residents attended the meeting. The proposed mica schist quarry at the top of Tierney Road has been the subject of debate over the past year at Select Board meetings.

At Monday’s meeting, opponents of the quarry asked for corrections to the minutes of the July 12 meeting, saying certain comments from their viewpoint were misrepresented or omitted. Their changes were duly noted and board member George Timko made suggestions for correcting the minutes.

Michael Harrington presented the board his revised draft of the “Town of Cavendish Tierney Road Ordinance: Prohibiting Operations Requiring Federal Licensing on Tierney Road,” along with a statement outlining his “Alterations and Explanations” and a list of 11 types of businesses that require federal licensing. In the “Explanations” he introduces himself as a 2017 graduate of Massachusetts School of Law. His family has owned a house on Tierney Road since 1992.

Harrington clarified that the ordinance is not an attempt to impose zoning but to protect the neighborhood from future hazardous activity. He also assured the board that the ordinance would have “zero impact” on whether Snowstone LLC proceeds with its quarry plan under Act 250 jurisdiction. That decision is now in the hands of the Vermont Superior Court, Harrington said.

He also told the public that the ordinance requires that Snowstone LLC be the only operator of the quarry now and in the future.

However, he said that the town is in violation of state law that specifies that the Town Plan and all town maps must reflect the same information, and the quarry does not appear on the town map although the Town Plan refers to resource extraction. To a question by the recording secretary as to which maps, Harrington said that no map he has seen shows any evidence of a quarry on Tierney Road.

This omission, Harrington said, was the basis for the opposing group to reject two settlement offers by Snowstone’s attorney, Lawrence Slason, that, Harrington said, would either curtail the quarrying activity or end it immediately.

The offers “go against everything we have asked the Select Board to do” regarding the town maps and Town Plan, he said. He did not go into further detail but described one of the offers, which involved a large sum of money, as “obscene” and if accepted would show the opponents to be “hypocrites.” He said that Snow brought his problems on himself by filing for an Act 250 jurisdictional opinion.

Maureen Savage, seller of the quarry parcel,  acknowledged that she and her husband, Justin, had made an offer to restrict any further quarrying operation after Snowstone had ended its operation, adding that quarrying is how Jason Snow makes his living.

Evelyn Turco wanted to know what the purpose of the ordinance was.

Harrington replied that any business that requires a federal license to operate “has no business on Tierney Road” and should in any case be done in conjunction with town maps and the Town Plan, which are required by law to provide the same information.

Carl Snyder asked what kinds of businesses would be prohibited.

Harrington displayed a separate list of businesses that include “mining for mineral resources regardless if explosives will be used,” with oversight by the federal Mine Safety & Health Administration.

The Snowstone quarry is “grandfathered,” according to Harrington, but any future mining would be prohibited.

Law school graduate Michael Harrington clarified that the proposed ordinance is not an attempt to impose zoning but to protect the neighborhood from future hazardous activity. He also assured the board that the ordinance would have ‘zero impact’ on whether Snowstone LLC proceeds with its quarry plan under Act 250 jurisdiction. That decision is now in the hands of the Vermont Superior Court, he said.

Citing discussions he had at the state level and citing the Town Charter, Harrington said the Select Board can write a specific ordinance to cover a specific area of town and, that, if the Select Board adopts it, citizens can ask for it to go before the voters on the ballot. He said he hoped for a decision from the board in September.

Both Town Manager Brendan McNamara and the board favored caution. McNamara asked the board to “exercise caution before considering any ordinance by anybody” without first consulting both the town attorney and the state of Vermont.

Harrington asked McNamara to forward the ordinance to the town attorney.

McNamara said that the attorney’s opinion is “confidential between the Select Board and the attorney.” However, attorney-client privilege only applies to the client’s innate barring of an attorney from disclosing communications. The client can disclose some or all of the communications.

He added that he supports continued conversation and transparency on the issue, and that people in town are concerned about establishing a precedent for passing ordinances.

Board member George Timko stressed it is not necessary to pass the proposed ordinance “in a rushed fashion,” especially since the case is now in the Act 250 process. He added that he had “a problem with the selective nature of this ordinance” and while he appreciated the points that Harrington brought up, the issue needs more time.

Tierney Road resident Jim Wichelhaus asked if there are other subdivisions in town subject to the same bylaws that pertain to the Roundy subdivision. Timko mentioned several condos but didn’t seem sure about their bylaws.

Cavendish land records indicate that Tierney Road has 12 house lots and two common lots for wastewater management, subdivisions of the old Roundy farm in 1987. An Owners’ Association was established at that time and deed restrictions apply to those 13 house lots but not to other properties on Tierney Road. Sales of house lots began in 1988, most as second homes.

Seeking cell service around library

During public comment, Cavendish Fletcher Community Library Trustee John White, noting lack of cell service around the library, asked the Select Board to join the School Board in asking a cellular carrier to install a cell tower on the hill behind the school that would cover the school, the Post Office and the entire green. White said his concern is for the safety of schoolchildren and passersby who might need emergency assistance. Town Manager McNamara endorsed the idea.

Evelyn Turco noted that Tuesday, Aug. 14, would be the last time voting would be held at the school. It will be moved to the Fire Department, she said.

The board approved motions to allocate $145,000 for the paving project on Twenty Mile Stream Road; a catering and a special events permit to serve alcoholic beverages; and renewal of the solar bond anticipation note in the amount of $309,000.

Turco thanked the town for repairing the “huge hole” at the foot of Twenty Mile Stream Road.

McNamara announced that projects long in the planning are starting to happen. The state has signed off on the design and construction of the replacement aeration system in the wastewater treatment plant, with a start date of Aug. 20 and completion date in January 2019, should cold weather not stop the project until spring. The cost is up but still within the bond amount.

The Depot Street Bridge is scheduled to start Oct. 8, with completion by next fall, but “We’ll believe it when we see it,” McNamara added. Easements on private property are 90 percent complete and VTrans has not awarded the contract yet.

The town garage – “the largest project in town,” according to McNamara – is on its way. The building will be delivered Aug. 22. The site work and infrastructure are being completed. McNamara expressed appreciation to Randy Shimp, Clerk of the Works. The Highway Department is expected to be able to occupy the building by early November.

The Board of Civil Authority has requested an extension for the Vermont property evaluation review of tax grievances due to a number of the members recusing themselves as residing on Tierney Road, where a few of the properties under the review are located. The remaining justices of the peace can’t meet until Sept. 10. The Select Board approved a motion to send a letter to the state requesting the postponement.

And lastly, McNamara said that an adventure touring club of 4×4 off-road vehicles traveling on Class 4 roads has been causing damage to them. He said the group has not reached Cavendish but it could be financially problematic. He has reached out to other town managers. This is “the last thing we need,” he said.

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