Bristol pit Act 250 hearing nears

BRISTOL — Proponents and opponents of a gravel pit near the Bristol village met again this week in the latest chapter of a years-long fight over a proposed 26-acre excavation project off of Rounds Road.
After two separate applications for town zoning permits and several appeals to the state environmental court, the wheels are beginning to turn in a hearing to determine whether or not the proposed gravel pit conforms with Act 250, the state’s Land Use and Development Act.
Bristol resident Jim Lathrop has been seeking permission to build the proposed gravel pit on his 65-acre parcel since 2004, when he first filed an application with the town seeking a conditional use zoning permit.
Since then, though, the project has been stalled at several turns: Though the town’s Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) approved Lathrop’s 2004 applications, residents in the town opposed to the pit appealed the decision to the state environmental court. Lathrop later filed a separate, modified 2007 application, but the ZBA rejected Lathrop’s request, a decision Lathrop in turn appealed.
But any decisions at the Environmental Court level have been postponed until a decision is made about the proposal’s Act 250 status. This week, representatives from both sides of the heated gravel debate met in an “prehearing conference” to discuss the Act 250 application. The legal warning for that meeting said that anyone interested in participating in the Act 250 conference should plan to attend.
The meeting was slated for Wednesday morning, and Town Administrator Bill Bryant said earlier in the week that there was a chance the conference could stretch into Thursday.
The timeline for the Act 250 hearing was among the items set to be determined in the Wednesday hearing, and Bryant said it’s too soon to know when the final hearing will take place.
The Act 250 application will be reviewed by the Rutland County district commission after the local Addison County commission recused itself from the case, likely due to conflicts of interests among some of the commission’s members.
Looking ahead, Bryant said that it’s likely that the Act 250 decision — be it in favor or against the proposed pit — will be appealed by whichever side comes away unhappy. Lathrop’s case for the gravel pit is being represented by lawyer Mark Hall, and Bristol lawyer Jim Dumont is representing town residents who wish to block the pit.
The likely appeal, like the previous objections to the ZBA’s decisions, will be heard in Environmental Court, where the case will be heard “de novo,” or from the beginning.
Reporter Kathryn Flagg is at kathrynf@addisonindependent.com.


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