Neighbors Oppose Quarry Reopening
By Ed Barna - 5-19-94
Pittsford - the OMYA marble company's bid to
reopen four quarries near their plant in Florence met
strong opposition from neighbors at Act 250 land use
hearings Tuesday and Wednesday.
Nearby landowners testified to their concerns
about traffic, blasting impacts, dust, water draining
from the area, and loss of property value. Kathleen
Pilcher said outside the hearing that after talking
with several other neighbors, she is certain there
will be an appeal if the project receives an Act 250
And Fish and Wildlife Department biologist said
the project would imperil about eight acres of deer
yard on the 325-acre site.
OMYA consulting biologist Errol Briggs and
consulting forester Robbo Holleran countered that
hardly any deer depend on the site for winter
survival, partly because there are other deer yards in
The company plans to turn the so-called Hogback
quarries into one open pit operation and send out
crushed rock at a rate of 40 truck loads a day.
District 1 Environmental Commission Chairman
Robert Bloomer recessed the hearing Wednesday until an
indefinite date, pending the arrival of information on
a dozen or so points at issue. He said there may or
may not be another public hearing after parties
respond to the new information.
The intensity of the public reaction came as a
surprise to OMYA, which had chosen the Hogback site to
replace marble from Brandon's Smoke Rise Quarry after
1995 because the Florence site was relatively remote.
Located between two ridges that would scene the noise
from crushing and screening rocks, it is only half a
mile north of the grinding plant it would supply, thus
reducing traffic impacts.
On Wednesday resident Thomas Pilcher urged OMYA
to put a new rail line on the old railroad bed running
through the site and deliver calcium carbonate ore to
the plant that way. OMYA attorney Edward Schwiebert
and OMYA geologist Donald Burns and Holleran agreed
that was impossible because no railroad could climb
the 15 degree grade to where trucks now dump rocks the
plant will use.
But OMYA is considering another compromise;
building a new road along the ridge, straight to the
plant, rather than building a 1,800-foot haul road to
Fire Hill Road. OMYA had already reached an agreement
with selectmen that they would rebuild Fire Hill Road,
something selectmen said would compensate for any
financial impact of the truck traffic.
Neighbors reacted favorably to the idea, once
they were assured that dust control measures would be
used along the new road if it had a gravel surface.
Schwiebert said the company will investigate paving
But OMYA water consultant Jeffrey Nelson warned
that state and federal agencies would have to
cooperate on wetland issues before any such road could
Briggs said there could also be a problem with
the Fish and Wildlife Department because building that
road would require cutting some of the cedar trees
that are prime food for deer.
The greatest part of Wednesday's testimony
concerned the deer yard issue. Briggs said that in
the three of the five past winters for which there is
information, few if any deer bedded down in the area,
even after the great blizzard of 1993.
State biologist Douglas Blodgett, backed by
Agency of Natural Resources attorney Kurt Janson, said
the Act 250 criteria relate to the loss of key
habitat, not the number of deer involved.
Commissioners pressed them for specifics - whether
one deer was enough to stop a project, whether losing
1 percent of the deer yard was too much, whether
economic benefits could outweigh the loss. But
Blodgett and Janson held firm in saying the deer yard
issue could justify rejection of the permit.
However, Blodgett said the the state is working
with OMYA on a compromise in which OMYA would maintain
a deer yard in Proctor as mitigation for any
short-term loss of habitat in Florence. In the long
run, he said, OMYA's plan for forest improvements away
from the quarrying will increase deer habitat.
Blodgett said the problem is not so much the
cutting of trees as the noise of trucks, which would
make deer lose vital energy by moving around in the
winter. Briggs countered that deer can be seen
regularly near Vermont interstate highways, and have
learned to live near Bangor International Airport in
Holleran said the Proctor site was a poor choice
for mitigation because the mature pine trees there
give little cover and have better value as timber.
That area will never regenerate as softwood after the
pines are gone, he said.