Hinsdale plans counter-suit in large farm case

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(Host) There’s more legal wrangling over a large dairy operation planned for Chittenden County. Neighbors appealed the project last month. But now the farmer says their appeal was filed in the wrong place. The farmer wants the case moved to Superior Court, where he hopes to bring a counter-suit against the opponents.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) From his backyard in Charlotte, Steve Kantor looks out over alfalfa and cornfields to a broad view of Camel’s Hump and the Green Mountains. But soon, Kantor’s view could include a two-acre barn and a 1.7-acre manure pit.

It’s not the view that Kantor is really worried about. He says the manure pit as it’s designed now will leak over 1,400 gallons a day into the ground. Kantor draws his well water from an aquifer that he says could be polluted by that manure.

(Kantor) “See, there’s my well right there. It’s an 80-foot well in gravel and that gravel aquifer has been found out in that field as well. So there’s a real concern that the bottom of the pit not be in that same aquifer. And they haven’t done the testing to determine what’s going to be under that pit.”

(Dillon) Kantor and many of his neighbors formed a group to fight the proposed farm. The neighbors have gone to the Water Resources Board to appeal a dam permit that was issued to the farm earlier this fall. The farm needs the dam to hold back the manure. Farmer Clark Hinsdale says the appeal is filed in the wrong place. He wants the case moved to Superior Court.

Hinsdale subdivided and sold some of the land to the neighbors who are now fighting his project. The deeds to the property include covenants that say “no owner or occupant shall take any action, legal or otherwise to restrict the agricultural use” of the Hinsdale’s farmland. Clark Hinsdale says the neighbors have violated that deed restriction. He says the issue should be tested in court.

(Hinsdale) “The group that’s appealing our permit is a group called Citizens for Safe Farming, which was incorporated as a not-for-profit corporation two days before the appeal was filed. And we’re looking to have the right to face our accusers. We want to know who is suing us. And our belief is that a number of neighbors who have covenants in their deeds specifically agreeing not to take legal action against the farm are taking legal action against the farm through this corporate veil they’ve established.”

(Dillon) The neighbors say the deed restrictions apply to the existing 486-acre farm, not one that would be a thousand acres and would include up to 1,300 hundred cows. The Water Resources Board will hear arguments in the case next month.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Charlotte.

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