High on the plateau above the New Haven River overlooking the village of Bristol rests a fertile 11-acre hay meadow with spectacular views of Deerleap Mountain, the Bristol Cliffs, Bristol’s downtown and views west toward the Adirondacks. With a thin row of trees bordering the meadow on two sides and high mountains at its back, the site is as picturesque as it gets in Vermont — and that’s pretty special.
But the purpose of a site visit this past Monday at this scenic location, wasn’t to admire the view and imagine the good fortune that 25 or 30 families might have if a residential neighborhood were established there in the distant future, or in the similarly sized wooded section that borders the meadow on the south side. Rather, the District 9 Environmental Commission held a public site visit to give its members, Bristol residents and others an opportunity to walk the site and learn the details of a proposed gravel pit that would excavate untold hundreds of thousands of tons of gravel for the next 35 or more years.
The questions answered during the site visit were of a technical nature: if the access road goes here, how will the traffic flow; what landscaping will be done to hide the cut into the woods; what will be done to mitigate the noise, gravel dust and visual scars to the land; where will the digging begin, how will it proceed? They talked about 200-foot setbacks and test pits and the steepness of access and egress roads.
But the central question of whether a conditional use permit should be granted to allow the significant parcel to be mined as a gravel pit or left, as some argue the town’s municipal plan suggests, as a residential area for future growth was not discussed.
It is, however, the question Bristol residents should reconsider in a public process.
Today’s front-page headline is a stunner: Middlebury College pledges $9 million to help the town build the long-discussed Cross Street Bridge. As a gift to the town, it’s huge and most generous. But the bigger story is the message behind the gift — it’s a new era in town-gown relations that promises a greater degree of cooperation and interaction to the benefit of both.
And that’s terrific.
This new era is punctuated by several factors:
• The current generation of students are doers, says Middlebury College President Ron Liebowitz, and the college campus may not be big enough for them throughout their four-year stint. Interaction with the town and area communities allows them to spread their wings, pursue interests off campus, provide valuable services and gain an understanding of community outside the college.