(Host) An Environmental Court judge has settled six years of legal controversy and ruled against a quarry proposed for central Vermont.
The ruling is being hailed as an important decision because it affirms important principles of state environmental law.
VPR’s John Dillon reports:
(Dillon) The large-scale stone quarry was planned for 93 acres on Route 100 B about 2 and a half miles north of Moretown village. It was designed to operate for 33 years.
But the proposal divided many in the Mad River Valley town. While there was some community support, for a while local roads were dotted with signs saying, "Keep Moretown Quarry Free."
After a six-year legal slog through zoning boards, and Act 250 hearings, Environmental Court Judge Thomas Durkin has rejected a land use permit for the project.
Attorney David Gracyk represented several residents in the appeal.
(Grayck) "The court’s decision quite simply said this project simply doesn’t fit. And it recognized that it wasn’t just about protecting certain individuals or neighbors. It was a decision which is designed to protect the health and safety of the general public. There is an existing community of residential uses, agriculture uses, and scenic uses and the court’s decision was this project doesn’t fit within that context."
(Dillon) The judge said the blasting would disturb neighbors and that the quarry operations would not fit with the rural character of the area.
The judge noted that neighbors living within 15-hundred feet of the site were advised to stay indoors to avoid flying rock during blasting.
Grayck said the ruling could have statewide impact.
(Grayck) "Quarries are a vital industry and are necessary in Vermont and can be done properly, but it clearly sends a message to a proposed quarry operator that if you’re going to propose a quarry and the blasting is going to cause neighbors to have to stay indoors for their own safety that you need to re-evaluate your project."
(Dillon) The Environmental Court based its ruling on 17 days of trial and over 1,000 pages of legal filings.
Grayck said Judge Durkin reached back to some landmark Act 250 rulings to write a decision that affirms that local zoning and Act 250 are designed to protect public health and environmental quality.
(Grayck) "The court identified the existing uses made by the public and those uses were both residences, bicyclists who enjoy the scenic corridor, people with horse farms and the equine business, and the court said those uses essentially would be overwhelmed by the quarry."
(Dillon) Quarry developer Richard Rivers said he and his lawyer were reviewing the decision and were trying to decide what to do next. They have 30 says to appeal to the state Supreme Court.
For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.