Court upholds Chittenden landfill ruling

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(Host) The Vermont Supreme Court has upheld a lower court ruling that helps pave the way for the construction of a new landfill in Chittenden County.

But as VPR’s Steve Zind reports, many hurdles remain – not the least of which is local opposition to the landfill.

(Zind) The high court ruled that Chittenden Solid Waste District will not have to pay nearly five million dollars in damages to a local business that owns the property where the district wants to build the landfill.

The solid waste district and Hinesburg Sand and Gravel Company have been in court for 15 years.

In 1992, the publicly owned district invoked the law of eminent domain to take over the property in Williston.

At that time, a jury determined that the solid waste district should pay the company $8.8 million in compensation.

When Chittenden Superior Court cut that amount to $4 million, Hinesburg Sand and Gravel appealed. Today the Vermont Supreme Court agreed with the lower figure.

Tom Moreau is manager of Chittenden Solid Waste District. Moreau says the district is prepared to pay the four million dollars owed to the sand and gravel company.

If it had been forced to pay $8.8 million instead, it would have had to move faster to complete the landfill. In that sense Friday’s Supreme Court ruling is significant.

(Moreau) “It gives CSWD far more time to plan for the solid waste system of the future. Had it been the original amount there’s a proverbial gun to our head to get moving.”

(Zind) Moreau says the landfill won’t be finished for another five years. What lies ahead is planning and permitting – and perhaps more court challenges.

Members of a citizens group called VOCAL – Vermont Organized Communities Against Landfills have gone to court to overturn the agreement between the town of Williston and Chittenden Solid Waste District. Craig Abrahams is the group’s vice-president.

(Abrahams) “The town of Williston sold itself to the devil basically back in 1992.”

(Zind) Abrahams’ group questions every aspect of the proposed landfill.

Abraham says growth and development mean the landfill would present serious environmental and health risks to Williston residents.

He also says the facility is unnecessary because of an expansion of the Coventry landfill in the Northeast Kingdom, where much of Chittenden County’s waste is trucked.

(Abrahams) “There’s no need for a landfill in Williston. The General Manager of the CSWD, Mr. Tom Moreau is on public record more than once in the last few years as stating that no new landfill capacity will be required in the state of Vermont.”

(Zind) Moreau says that’s part of what he said, but the rest is that a local landfill would be more economical for the public, and more environmentally sound.

(Moreau) “We can do better. We can build a better design locally. There’s these ancillary things: The fuel going up to Coventry with 20 some odd loads a day.”

(Zind) Moreau says the original landfill proposal envisioned growth in Williston and a 1200 foot buffer between the facility and the nearest house remains in place.

For VPR news, I’m Steve Zind.

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