Monday night’s special SB meeting was called to follow up on the June 12 meeting, where the SB discussed a possible response to the Natural Resources Board (NRB) regarding the need for an Act 250 permit for less than an acre mining operation, which is allowable under the Cavendish Town Plan. (See Cavendish Update 6/9/17 for information on this project).
Similarly to the previous meeting, there were residents of Tierney Rd strongly opposed to any type of quarrying for fear that it would create noise as well as devalue the property. However, several residents had no objection to the quarry.
John (Jack) Smart whose land on the Cavendish Gulf Rd has been quarried for years by Snow was very clear of the “not in my backyard” (NIMBY) mentality and in fact stated that he was glad to have the quarry in his backyard. Not only did he say there was no noise to speak of, as well as no dust from the trucks hauling stone, he invited the Tierney Rd. residents to visit his property to see how it looked now that the quarrying was completed. Smart also noted that Snow was an incredible help to the town following Irene providing the much needed stone to rebuild embankments and roadways. “He didn’t have to do this,” which speaks to his character and his concern for the community.
Doris Eddy, whose home is the closest to the quarry of any landowner on Tierney Rd, also voiced a lack of concern for the project, noting the fact that the owner of the land, Justin Savage, was building his home above the quarry site. “Would he really be building there if he thought there was going to be so much noise ?” She has known Savage and his family for many years, found them to be trustworthy and believes he should be given the chance to work his land.
While Justin Savage has organized meetings with the landowners to discuss his plans, he did not make any comments at the meeting, and did not provide any written information about the scope of the project.
Ultimately the biggest concern is that the project is coming in just under the limit identified in the Town Plan and so is this going to be a case of slow expansion, one acre at a time? Robin Timko of Cavendish Community and Conservation Association (CCCA), again stated their position that this isn’t the McLean project, the reason CCCA was formed in the first place. Their recommendation is that Tierney Rd residents and the quarry owners sit down and work out a binding agreement. Timko has stated that the Act 250 process is a good one and it’s one way to work out such an agreement. However, the decision for whether an Act 250 permit is needed rests with ANR not the SB.
Etienne Ting, head of the Cavendish Planning Commission, pointed out that Cavendish does not have zoning and the Town Plan is just that. It’s not a zoning ordinance.
The NIMBY effect that Smart spoke of is very real. Rural areas are the locations of natural deposits for stone and lumber. One of the Tierney Rd residents said that because there is such a large vein of stone in Cavendish, he should go elsewhere to mine and leave them alone. However, as rural towns expand with residential and second home properties, more and more conflicts arise throughout Vermont, while at the same time, the demand for stone and lumber increases.
A Tierney Rd. resident noted at the June 12th meeting and again Monday night that Cavendish should develop jobs in areas other than mining. However, they offered no suggestions about what these jobs might be.
While the fastest growing areas of employment in the United States are home businesses and telecommuters, a large part of the town can’t participate because of a lack of sufficient telecommunications. The problem has become so bad, it’s forcing residents with home-based businesses to move or consider doing so.
Unfortunately, selling a property with limited Internet access and no cell service to speak of is difficult, particularly as abutting towns like Chester and Springfield offer scenic views and fiber wired to the home. TDS has stated that they will not be upgrading services until 2018 and then it will only be over a copper based system. This will only offer 10 Mbgs, which is insufficient to run many home based businesses. The Cavendish Telecommunications Committee is working with the state to secure a grant to help Comcast expand its services in Cavendish.
Ultimately, the discussion of a quarry has brought up a number of issues that are continually bubbling just below the surface- employment, retention of residents and how to use natural resources effectively and sustainably.
Strong feelings were expressed pro and con for the quarry. However, this was not the issue that needed to be decided by the SB. The town attorney had advised them to submit one of three choices to ANR-1) It’s ANR’s decision about whether an Act 250 is required; 2) No Act 250 is needed since it is in compliance with The Town Plan; or 3) The SB remains neutral and not take a stance. The board voted for option 1.