Neighbors appeal Hinsdale dam permit

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(Host) The legal battle has begun over a large farm expansion project planned for Chittenden County. A group of neighbors this week appealed a dam permit granted to a Charlotte dairy operation. The dam is needed for a large manure pit. But the neighbors say the pit will pollute groundwater and a nearby stream.

VPR’s John Dillon reports.

(Dillon) The Hinsdale family of Charlotte wants to build a new barn and a 1.7 acre manure pit to contain the waste from up to 1,300 cows. The neighbors say the project is too big for their residential area. They’ve appealed a permit the Hinsdales got last month to begin work on the pit.

Steve Kantor lives near the farm. He says the manure pit will leak about 1,400 gallons a day. He says a state engineer wanted to do tests to see if there’s an aquifer beneath the pit.

(Kantor) “That was not done at the time of the hearing and it’s still not been done. So the concern was that the toxic manure that was going to be held in that dam, over 5 million gallons, could leak into an aquifer.”

(Dillon) The appeal was filed in Superior Court and with the state Water Resources Board. But the first legal question may be whether the neighbors are allowed to even challenge the project.

About 15 years ago, the Hinsdale family subdivided and sold the property to many of the people who now oppose the large farm plan. The deeds to their land 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.

(Hinsdale) “I think that some of the neighbors with the covenant in their deed to take no action, legal or otherwise, have now taken both kinds of action. They’ve taken legal action and for the last few months they’ve taken other action. They’ve been standing up and testifying before regulatory bodies about the evils of this farm.”

(Dillon) Hinsdale says the appeal will delay the farm project, because he had hoped to begin work this fall.

(Hinsdale) “I do understand that our farm application has become a rallying point for groups that take issue with traditional agriculture.”

(Dillon) Kantor, of the neighborhood group, says the opponents are not against traditional farming. He says the issue is that the Hinsdale proposal is just too large to be located next door to a residential area.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon.

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