Quarry Gets a Permit Loaded with Conditions

Front Page / May. 15, 2008 12:00am EDT

By Sandy Vondrasek

Quarry Gets a Permit Loaded with Conditions By Sandy Vondrasek

The Randolph Development Review Board last week voted 5-1 to approve a 17-acre ledge extraction quarry on Randolph Center’s Ridge Road, but the conditions imposed by the DRB add up to "a significant impact of the operational feasibility of the quarry," the project engineer said yesterday.

Robert Townsend, of American Consulting Engineers and Surveyors of Williamstown, told The Herald that he planned to speak Wednesday, by phone, with property owner Gordon Sprague of Florida about how to proceed. Sprague had just received the DRB’s decision, which was mailed to him last Thursday, when it was released.

If the applicant—or for that matter, neighbors who opposed the project—want to appeal the DRB’s decision, those appeals must be filed within 30 days of the ruling.

Townsend represented Sprague’s application—to operate a four-phase quarry on 210 acres Sprague owns off Ridge Road—at a series of four public hearings before the DRB. The application, which was strongly opposed by dozens of Ridge Road residents, was legally filed by Sprague’s land-holding corporation, Sprague Farms, LLC.

In its decision, the DRB gave the project an overall thumbs up—issuing use, site plan, local Act 250, and conditional use approval (the last specifically for operation of a stone crusher)—but limited the scope of the proposed operation by a series of conditions. Most of the conditions—those restricting hours, truck traffic, and the use heavy equipment—would affect the "operational feasibility" of the project, according to engineer Townsend.

A different sort of condition—requiring the applicant to "reconstruct the full width of Ridge Road for 150 feet on either side of the access road"—represents "a great expense," Townsend said.

Although he had not yet calculated the cost of rebuilding 300 feet of paved highway, Townsend indicated that the cost would be "quite expensive" for a project that was not of "significant-size, as far as quarries go."

Neighbors To Meet

Also pondering what to do next are the neighbors who opposed the project, some of whom conducted their own researches and traffic counts, and hired their own noise expert.

Resident Phil Angell said yesterday that he and his wife Rosie planned to meet that night with several neighbors to review the 14-page decision, and to discuss their possible next steps.

Angell, an attorney, said he was aware of the 30-day limit for appeal.

"It’s written on my calendar," he said.

Conditions

The DRB’s detailed ruling in broken into three major sections.

The "findings of fact" section lists information received as testimony or by written submission, during the course of the public hearings.

The "conclusions of law" section gives insights into how the DRB reached its decision, and what statutes, local regulations, and court rulings it relied on to reach its conclusions.

In two instances, the DRB cited recent Environmental Court rulings that vacated, or otherwise challenged, prior DRB decisions. The DRB also spelled out when, and why, it based its conclusions on the town plan, rather than on the zoning ordinance.

The final section, "decisions," grants Sprague Farms the four permit approvals and spells out the multiple conditions imposed by the DRB.

Most of the limiting conditions are laid out under the section granting "use approval." First, the DRB set operating hours at 8 a.m.-5 p.m., 90 minutes less than the 7 a.m.-5:30 p.m. hours requested.

The DRB also limited truck traffic to 32 "round-trip truck trips" per day.

Sprague Farms had requested "an average of 25 trucks per day." Townsend, during the hearings, advised that the quarry could theoretically load up to 96 trucks a day, but that kind of high volume would be extremely rare, and probably limited to emergency or major road construction situations.

He conceded this week that "an average of 25 trucks per day" would be a tough criterion to enforce.

"Thirty-two is less than we hoped," Townsend added.

The DRB also dictated that on-site blasting, as well as crushing, be limited to one day per week.

Townsend this week characterized the trucking and blasting conditions as "significant," and the one-day-a-week-crushing condition as "a very significant limitation."

During testimony, Townsend and quarry operator R.E. Tucker said the proposed quarry would have a crusher with a "water-base suppression system at dust points." The crusher, they said, would be powered by a generator housed in a van body.

The noise from crushing operations, they said, would be 62-65 decibels—"normal conversation range"—just 320 feet from the crusher.

The DRB’s permit approval came with multiple, lesser conditions, including those dictating landscaping, land reclamation, and access road construction. The DRB noted that the project also needs full Act 250 approval and four storm water permits from the state.

The permit was signed by DRB members Krista Rumrill, John Becker, Frank Reed, Christopher Recchia, and Joel Tillberg, chair. Kenneth Currier signed as a "dissenting board member."

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