Cavendish SB hears citizen input re Tierney Road quarry

CAVENDISH, Vt. – The Select Board meeting of June 26, 2017, convened to discuss its jurisdictional options for the proposed stone quarry on Tierney Road, which is becoming controversial. The meeting was attended by almost 20 residents of Cavendish, including Justin Savage, owner of the parcel.

Town Manager Brendan McNamara informed the board that town counsel has outlined three possible options for the Select Board to present to the Natural Resources Board, given that the project does not trigger Act 250 due to its scale: 1. Request the state to take over jurisdiction in connection with Act 250; 2. State that the town has no Act 250 jurisdiction; or 3. State that the town remains neutral re jurisdiction.

Resident John Smart was the first to speak, defending the work and reputation of Jason Snow, the quarrier. Smart said Snow recently quarried in Smart’s “backyard” and Smart had no issues with noise or dust. He invited people to come and view the completed quarry, which Snow had left in “quite nice” condition,” he said. He further pointed out that Snow worked for the town during Tropical Storm Irene and suggested that Snow treated the residential neighbors with respect.

The next speaker, who did not give his name but introduced himself as having just graduated from law school, and his interest is a matter of “intellectual curiosity.” Regardless of a person’s character, the rule of law applies, he said. He claimed the size of the quarry is being “purposely massaged” to get around Act 250 regulation. He stated his belief that as a land contract sale, in which the seller can take back the property, so the arrangement is “not an arm’s length transaction” is therefore subject to Act 250 review.

Smart responded that the issue is to change Act 250.

Doris Eddy introduced herself as a native Cavendish person. She referred to the presence of ATVs and a shooting range, which she regards as acceptable, and described the developers (Jason Snow and Justin Savage) as “two local boys, who are good stewards of the land” and wondered “what the issue is here.”

Robin Timko, not a Tierney Road resident, who said she is not opposed, agreed the developers have a “salt of the earth” reputation but added that the main concern is the lack of parameters for the development, without a binding agreement.

This concern was echoed by several of the neighbors on the road. Margo Caulfield said that drafting an agreement is not the job of the Select Board.

Selectman George Timko acknowledged that the town plan is weak in regard to mining. He opined that the loss of property value would result in loss of revenue to the town, which might not be offset by the assessed value of the quarry. The “joint venture” aspect and how it triggers Act 250 needs to be addressed, he said.

Linda Watson, a neighbor, read a statement warning that homeowners will “abandon the area,” resulting in undervalued homes, the economic health of the town will suffer, and the quality of life on Tierney Road is at risk, as consequences of the quarry operations. She asserted that the project has been “cleverly designed to evade Cavendish zoning by manipulating the town plan.” She opposes any form of “mining” in a residential area and stated that she and her family have been residents since the 1960s.

The meeting can be viewed at lcptv.org/cavendish-selectboard-626.

The law school graduate spoke again, saying that litigation would be “ridiculous” but added that the town would be a party to the lawsuit if it didn’t follow its master plan. “Nobody wants to be litigious but we will be if we have to be,” he stated.

Planning Commissioner Chair Etienne Ting was present and spoke to the point about the town plan, saying that the commission will have no involvement until the developer applies for an Act 250 permit. He added that the term “master plan” is incorrect. It is a town plan and as such has no legal force. He further explained that the town plan does not designate zones or “specify or limit activities to specific parts of town.”

George Timko read from part of the NRB letter that requests the interested parties to submit all fact or legal arguments to help him determine the legal effect of the seller’s intention with respect to his right of first refusal and whether an arm’s length transaction exists. The deadline is the end of the month.

After more discussion, in which the cultural divide between the factions became apparent, George Timko moved and it was seconded and passed, to choose the first option and request the state to accept jurisdiction, subject to Act 250.

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