Cavendish Selectboard addresses meeting rules, allows quarry statement

CAVENDISH, Vt. – The Cavendish Selectboard meeting Monday, Feb. 10 again dealt with information on the proposed quarry on Tierney Road. This month, however, the board allowed resident Mike Harrington to read his complete statement.

During January’s Selectboard meeting, Harrington attempted to make a statement about the latest legal rulings on the proposed quarry but was stopped by board member Mike Ripley just over a minute into his statement. Ripley cited a need to follow Robert’s Rules of Order and adopt standard procedural meeting protocols for citizen comments. Ripley also termed Harrington’s remarks irrelevant and characterized his remarks as “childish.” Later in the January meeting, board member Sandra Russo said she felt uncomfortable not letting Harrington speak.

Ripley’s conduct resulted in a formal complaint to the board and Town Manager Brendan McNamara concerning the censure of the subject and whether Ripley should recuse himself for bias in future meetings.

In response, the board again put the issue on the agenda and allowed Harrington to read his statement completely – this time speaking for over 13 minutes. Harrington, in compliance with concerns by the board, was careful to address the chairman and present a factual update on recent proceedings, avoiding inflammatory speech on the subject.

Harrington informed the board about recent decisions by Vermont Superior Court Environmental Division, which found in favor of Snowstone LLC and denied a motion by the neighborhood group for sanctions to be levied against Jason Snow and Snowstone.

According to Harrington, the jurisdictional opinion from several years ago was limited in scope to contractual dealings and the pro-quarry side has fought successfully to keep expert opinions from the anti-quarry side about lot size and excessive storm water from being brought before the Environmental Court. According to Harrington, the judge said from the bench to Snow that, “Anyone could ask the Act 250 board on for another jurisdictional opinion on those two issues.”

Harrington also went on to quote from the ruling, “…this Court believes that the legal issues in these coordinated appeals rise to a level of complexity that permits reasonable differences of interpretation.”

This statement in Harrington’s opinion points to the likelihood this will go before the Vermont Supreme Court. And if need be, “We’re just going to go right back to the Act 250 board and ask for our own jurisdictional opinion…and they’ll listen to our experts on storm water.”

Issues concerning impact of blasting on residents’ well water and pipes, decreased tax revenues being collected by the town, and suppressed property values were also discussed.

Harrington said he would continue to keep the Selectboard informed as legal issues unfold for both sides.

The board then proceeded to a discussion on Cavendish Selectboard meeting rules of conduct. Russo drafted a proposal that would help establish “an atmosphere of courtesy and respect and accommodate meaningful participation by citizens.”

Her proposal included that all remarks should be made to and recognized by the chairman; remarks stick to clear and relevant facts; that citizens cannot speak to or about another member of the public; that a time limit be set for remarks; that citizens would be able to speak at two different times during the meeting – as each agenda item is discussed and also under “Hear Citizens” section of the agenda. The board will make any additional suggestions to Russo and the revisions will be presented in the future.

The Stone Church project, which is a joint effort between the town, Cavendish Historical Society, and the Solzhenitsyn Center, is making progress with meetings with VTrans and the Fire Marshal happening next week. Renovation funds are coming from the Solzhenitsyn Center with the town acting as point person on the renovations. One issue that’s arisen is that the pews in the stone church are all deeded to individuals and their families. They have to go through the process of researching ownership and notifying heirs before removing them.

The Depot Street Bridge only has a few weeks of work remaining once spring weather arrives. McNamara expects the bridge to reopen before the Memorial Day Parade.

Cavendish Town Meeting is Monday, March 2 at Cavendish Town Elementary School. Voting will happen the next day, Tuesday, March 3 at the Proctorsville Fire Station. Polls open at 10 a.m. The Cavendish Town Plan is up for approval. Copies are at the Town Office.

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