OFFICE OF THE PLANNING COMMISSION
Town of Halifax, Vermont
PLANNING COMMISSION SPECIAL MEETING
September 3, 2014
Call to Order
The meeting was called to order at 7:15 p.m. Planning Commission members present were Sirean LaFlamme, Bill Pusey, Margaret Stoltzman, and Stephan Chait. Brian McNeice was absent. Edee Edwards, Jesse Ferland, Janet Taylor, Jerry Pratt, Norman Fajans, Russ Denison, and Robbin Gabriel were also in attendance.
Changes and/or Additions to the Agenda
There were no alterations to the agenda.
Approval of Previous Meeting Minutes
Bill Pusey made a motion to approve the 8/26/14 special meeting minutes as written. Meggie Stoltzman seconded the motion, which passed, 4-0.
Review of New Open Meeting Law
Sirean LaFlamme passed around packets of an Open Meeting Law Primer provided by Edee Edwards, who received the slide show-styled tutorial when she attended VLCT’s workshop in Readsboro earlier this summer. There was no immediate disussion of this material; it will be useful to Commission members as they familiarize themselves with details of the law changes.
Discussion of the Act 250/Denison Quarry Questions
Board members turned next to the task of constructing a final version of questions and comments to present to the Environmental Commission at the September 9th hearing. Working from notes detailing input received from numerous sources, including town residents and Windham Regional Commission Senior Planner John Bennett, the Planning Commission crafted a list of 29 questions and/or comments, as follows:
Criterion 1 (a)—Air Pollution
Comment 1: Applicant’s response under this criterion indicates the anticipated use of a rock saw at the site. However, the revised “Noise Impact Assessment” (April 2014), prepared by RSG, Inc., does not include noise level data for a rock saw. Why not, and will this information be added to the study?
Comment 2: How effective will the final grading plan be in mitigating the expected sound levels? Given that the anticipated sound levels during quarry operation will be considerably higher than the current norm for that environment, can sound levels be mitigated so that they are very faint?
Comment 3: At 430 meters, does the site provide significant recharge to aquifers?
Comment 4: In a highwater event, water runoff to the Green River would feed into the Greenfield public water supply. Is this a public water supply concern?
Criterion 1B—Waste Disposal
Comment 5: How much schist dust will be generated?
Comment 6: Will any of the schist dust be trucked offsite?
Comment 7: Is there any proposed maintenance for the ponds after the final closing of the quarry (i.e., dredging, filtering)?
Comment 8: What is the status of the stream alteration permit filed December 17th, 2013?
Comment 9: Deer Park Brook is actually located along the northern border of the leased area, approximately 500 feet from portions of the shown project area. The response to sub-criterion 1F(a) states “Deer Park Brook is located approximately 2,300 feet westerly of the project site.” Exhibit 12 shows Deer Park Brook as not along the north boundary, but still approximately 500 feet from the edge of the proposed project. What accounts for this discrepancy?
Comment 10: Will there be runoff that will make its way down to the north from road construction and site operation approximately 500 feet to Deer Park Brook?
Comment 11: Has the applicant received a conditional use determination? Or do they not need one as their application response states?
Criterion 3(g)—Impact on Existing Water Supply
Comment 12: Is there any information about whether the schist quarry will have an impact on ground water/aquifer water quality?
Criterion 4—Soil Erosion
Comment 13: Will there be any regularly scheduled site monitoring, maintenance, or visits during those months of the year when the quarry is not in operation?
Criterion 5—Highways and Other Means of Transportation
Comment 14: Will the Town be required to make improvements to TH52 as a result of this project being permitted?
Comment 15: Applicant’s response indicates the existing road is passable for loaded logging trucks and the construction of the new section of road will be adequate to permit passage of stone-loaded flatbed trucks. Log trucks have a higher ground clearance than vehicles used within the town by emergency personnel. Will the road be made passable for emergency vehicles and emergency responders’ personal vehicles with ground clearance less than that of log trucks?
Comment 16: General traffic concerns
- How many truck trips (trip ends) per week?
- What size are the trucks?
- What model, make, and year are the trucks?
- How much will the trucks weigh (GVWR)?
- What days will they operate? Weekdays only, or seven days a week?
- How many employees will use the road access?
- Will employees need to leave the site frequently during the day or will there be just one arrival and departure per day per employee?
- Who determines when the roads are traversable?
- Could a condition be set that no rock will be transported when the roads are posted?
- How many total trip ends will there be?
Criterion 8: Scenic and Natural Beauty, Aesthetics, Natural Areas, Historic Sites
Comment 17: The response to sub-criteria (b)(i) states, “The project involves the extraction of earth resources but does not involve onsite processing of the extraction material.” Isn’t the sawing of rock a form of processing?
Comment 18: The response to sub-criterion (b)(ii) states, “The project equipment that has the potential to produce noise includes: a rock drill or saw, a hand drill powered by a generator, an excavator, a bucket loader, and transport trucks.” What kind of saw, how large is it, and how will it be cooled?
Comment 19: The Noise Impact Assessment (Exhibit 28) does not mention the saw referred to in the Criterion 8(b)(ii) response. Why didn’t the noise modeling include the saw?
Comment 20: The Noise Assessment delineates two areas of concentrated loud noise. The area to the south has a truck producing 65dBA, which does not match the decibel levels shown in Appendix A, Table A2. That table indicates a 109-114 dBA range for a heavy truck accelerating to 20 mph. Why this discrepancy?
Comment 21: The noise study was done with full vegetation cover at the site (no tree clearing) and with leaves on the trees. What would the noise levels be at the property line and at nearest residences during full quarry operation with the site cleared and full foliage, and with the site cleared but no leaves on the trees?
Comment 22: The noise study does not appear to address the truck noise at the residence on TH52 near the intersection with Highway #2.
Comment 23: Excavators with compressor-run jackhammers are commonly used at some quarries. Are there plans to use such equipment at this proposed quarry? If so, what is the noise level?
Criteria 9D and 9E: Earth Resources
Comment 24: The applicant’s response to (c)(iii) refers to final reclamation plan contours shown in Exhibit 2-8, Plan Sheet C-8. These final contours are not shown on Plan Sheet C-8. Full build-out extraction limits are shown but no reclamation plan. Where is the figure for the reclamation plan?
General questions on reclamation:
- Is the proposed $10,000 escrow amount sufficient for reclamation?
- How was this figure calculated?
- What would the $10,000 provide?
- Is inflation taken into account, given that reclamation would occur 50 years from now?
Criterion 9G: Private Utilities
Comment 25: Applicant states the access road will be maintained by the property owner and/or project operator. What type of site and/or access road security is planned to forestall unauthorized access during periods when the quarry is not active?
Criterion 9J: Public Utilities
Comment 26: How did applicant determine there would be no impact on highways? The trip frequency for logging trucks is likely to be much less than frequency of stone transport for the quarry operation.
Criterion 10: Conformance with Local and Regional Plans
Comment 27: In Exhibit 31, “Supplemental Memorandum Concerning Town Plan,” applicant states that “the project is located within a Conservation District as defined in the Town Plan,” and is “consistent with the Conservation District purpose in a number of respects.” In support of this statement, applicant cites Goal #10, shown on page 59 of the Halifax Town Plan, “to encourage the continued availability and good management of lands for agriculture, forestry, and earth/mineral extraction.” This reference (Goal #10) is not a Halifax Town Plan goal; it is quoted from a list of the state of Vermont’s Planning Goals, included within the Halifax Town Plan under the subhead “Town Response to Vermont’s Planning Goals” (see Halifax Town Plan, pg. 57-59).
The Halifax Town Plan states (see pg. 21, “Conservation District Recommendations,” item #1), “These lands are appropriate for low-intensity recreation, forestry, wildlife habitat, agriculture, hunting, and other open space uses. Development, which creates significant amount of traffic or noise, or which otherwise has an adverse impact on the environment, is undesirable.” The Halifax Town Plan’s recommendations for rural residential and village districts include commercial and industrial uses, but do not endorse that activity for the conservation district. (See Halifax Town Plan, pg. 22, “Rural Residential District Recommendations, item #6, and pg. 23, Village District Recommendations, item #4.)
Comment 28: In Exhibit 31 applicant refers to Halifax town zoning regulations, stating, “Earth extraction is considered ‘resource industry’ under the Zoning Regulations adopted March 6, 2012.” In the Halifax Zoning Regulations, under Article 7, Definitions, earth and mineral extraction is included under the term Resource Industry. We realize there is a discrepancy here in our zoning. The town believes that “earth extraction” is different than “resource industry” and this is something we need to clarify which is why we are in the process of updating and re-writing our zoning regulations. The fact that these terms are confused in our zoning is simply an oversight and, again, one of the main reasons why we are currently updating our zoning. Do Act 250 guidelines define earth and mineral extraction as resource industry?
Comment 29: Some relevant portions of the town plan were not referenced in the applicant’s response to Criterion 10’s request for demonstration of project conformance. In particular, the Halifax Town Plan (pg. 5, #16) states that one of its goals is “To discourage uncoordinated or incompatible development that may jeopardize or overburden public or private investment, or damage the town’s resources, rural character, and overall quality of life.”
After the Board had completed their compilation of questions and comments, Jerry Pratt explained the information exchange process between applicant and Environmental Commission. Once the initial responses and documentation are submitted by the applicant, the Commission reviews the material, and returns a request if further information is required. Pratt said that, to his knowledge, the only data still missing from the quarry application was the noise assessment for the rock saw, and that data was being prepared for submission. Pratt also told the Board he hoped to get permission from the Environmental Commission to lower several berms on the access road to make it possible for participants in the September 9th site visit to drive to the site in passenger vehicles. He is waiting for an answer to that request.
Edee Edwards volunteered to make additional copies of the town plan document if it appeared they would be needed for the hearing. She mentioned that, with Phyllis Evanuk away, she was reluctant to have the Town Plan printed professionally in quantity, as Phyllis may have had small final changes planned.
Sirean LaFlamme thanked everyone who had made contributions to the construction of the comments/questions list and, looking ahead to the post-Act 250 hearing period when the majority of Planning Commission members would be donning their ZBA hats to consider the quarry project’s conditional use permit application, stressed the Planning Commission’s need to address other pending issues in upcoming meetings. Edwards said she believed the venue for additional input on the quarry project will be further Environmental Commission hearings; she thought it likely the process would not be completed in a single hearing but would require several more.
Meggie Stoltzman make a motion to approve the completed list of questions/comments pertaining to the Act 250/Denison Quarry permit application. Bill Pusey seconded the motion, which passed, 4-0.
Warn Public Hearing for Copeland Subdivision Permit
LaFlamme told the meeting this permit has been on the back burner due to the extensive time devoted to the Act 250 permit. A public meeting must be warned, and letters sent to the abutters. Pusey asked Board members’ opinions as to whether he should recuse himself in this matter. He does occasional work for the Copelands, but is not involved in their proposed building project. LaFlamme said the matter could be discussed when the permit was warned on an open meeting agenda. Stephan Chait thought, based on Pusey’s description of his interaction with the Copelands, there would be no conflict of interest.
Hearing of Visitors
Forest Stewardship Municipal Outreach
LaFlamme read portions of a Windham Regional Commission announcement outlining WRC’s desire to work with two towns on the Municipal Outreach component of the Forest Stewardship Project. Edwards, who had received the proposal originally, said Halifax had been designated as the Windham County town with the most forestry potential. WRC would like to meet with members of the Planning Commission some time before the end of October. Stoltzman suggested the Board invite WRC to the next Planning Commission meeting on October 14th. Gabriel will respond to WRC with this suggestion.
Pusey made a motion to adjourn the meeting at 8:37 p.m. Stoltzman seconded the motion, which passed, 4-0.
Planning Commission Secretary, pro tem