OMYA Permit Is Appealed By Businesses
By BRUCE EDWARDS
November 16, 1998
Plans by OMYA Inc. to build a 10,000-square-foot addition to its Florence calcium carbonate plant hit a roadblock Friday when a group of Brandon innkeepers filed an appeal of the company's Act 250 land use permit.
The appeal to the state Environmental Board effectively puts OMYAs entire $160 million expansion in Vermont on hold.
The appeal was filed on behalf of The Brandon Group, comprising Louis and Sarah Pattis of the Brandon Inn, Michael and Melanie Shane of the Lilac Inn, and Norman and Ginette Milot of Rosebelle's Victorian Inn.
The owners of the three inns have fought OMYA's expansion, arguing that the increased truck traffic along Route 7 through downtown Brandon would further damage their businesses.
The innkeepers, who have retained former Environmental Board general counsel and Calais lawyer Stephanie J. Kaplan, appealed the permit on several grounds: undue air pollution, unreasonable traffic congestion and unsafe highway conditions in Brandon, adverse aesthetic impact on the town's historic buildings, and damage to the public investment in the downtown and on Route 7. The appeal also questioned whether OMYAs plant expansion complies with Brandon's town plan and with the Rutland Regional Plan. OMYA has proposed what it says
(See Page 8: OMYA)
Continued from Page One
is a four-year, $160 million investment in Vermont. But the company so far has been stymied in its effort to double the number of trucks hauling marble ore from 85 to 170 round-trips a day. Now, the plant expansion is also on hold, at least until a decision on the appeal is forthcoming.
Frustrated with delays in obtaining the necessary permits for its expansion, the company earlier this year threatened to take its investment elsewhere unless it received its permits by Aug. 1. Given the continued delays, it's unknown whether all or part of OMYA's investment plans for Vermont are in jeopardy.
In a companion Act 250 case to which the innkeepers were a party, the District 9 Environmental Commission earlier this year denied OMYAs application to double the number of trucks hauling marble from its expanded Middlebury quarry, south along Route 7 to its plant in the Florence section of Pittsford. Instead of the 170 round-trips a day the company sought, the commission limited the increase to a maximum 113 trips a day over two years.
OMYA appealed the District 9 decision, which is now awaiting a hearing before the Environmental Board. In its appeal, the company argued in part that the commission exceeded its
authority in limiting truck traffic through Brandon because the town falls within the jurisdiction of District 1.
Kaplan said the appeal filed by the three Brandon businesses is intended to protect their right to bring up the traffic issue should it come before the District 1 commission in the future.
When the District I commission approved an Act 250 permit for OMYAs $2.7 million plant expansion last month, the commission declined to address traffic issues related to Brandon since the question of jurisdiction is on appeal before the Environmental Board.
Kaplan said should the board side with OMYA and rule that the District 9 commission does not have jurisdiction, then all issues relating to traffic through Brandon would come before District 1, which issued the permit for the plant expansion.
The appeal, filed Friday, comes after the Conservation Law Foundation brokered a deal last month that would allow OMYA to double its truck trips while the company and the state worked to explore a rail alternative. (The memorandum of understanding will be submitted to the Environmental Board when it hears OMYAs appeal.)
Kaplan, however, said her clients have serious doubts that a rail spur, which would take OMYAs truck traffic off Route 7, will be built. In the meantime, she said OMYA gets to increase the number of truck trips.
"My clients are very concerned about that and feel that the rail spur is very contingent. It's certainly not a done deal by any means," she said.
The memorandum of understanding between OMYA, CLF and several state agencies calls for a rail spur to be built within five years. But Kaplan said that in the meantime business at the three inns will continue to suffer.
In approving the permit for the plant expansion, the District 1 commission incorporated the memorandum in its decision. The commission said that it retained the right to reconvene a hearing on the traffic issue i£ the rail spur isn't built.
However, Kaplan questioned the wisdom of granting OMYA its 170 round-trips a day. If the rail spur falls through, she said, she doubted the state would order OMYA to reduce truck traffic.
Who in the world is going to have whatever it takes to do that," she said. "I mean, that's just not realistic to think that would happen."
Kaplan also said there appeared to be a contradiction between state's policy to revitalize downtown and its policy toward OMYA.
"On the one hand you have this big push to enhance downtowns, to encourage investment in towns, and on the other hand encouraging this expansion that will do nothing to enhance the downtown and in fact will probably harm the downtown.