Vermont town discusses setback requirements for slate quarries

Kerry Clines

February 9, 2018

Photo: Robert Layman/staff photo.

On Monday, Jan. 29, 2018, the Poultney (Vt.) Planning Commission met with local slate-quarry operations to discuss zoning amendments and try to reach an agreement on setback requirements, the Rutland Herald reports. Current zoning regulations require a “‘200-foot setback of all pits, dumps, and buildings to any residential building or property line.”

The slate industry feels that 200 feet is too much and presented a proposal suggesting a 40-foot setback for all quarries not exempt by 1995 legislation, which is the standard for certain activities in the area. Act 250, criterion 10, states that for a quarry to apply for a permit to operate, the quarry must adhere to the town plan and zoning laws, unless the quarry falls under the 1995 special-interest legislation.

“The law says that if you registered your quarry by a date Jan. 1, 1997, then your quarry would be exempt from act 250 forever,” Bill Burke, coordinator for the District 1 Environmental Commission, which reviews Act 250 projects, said during the meeting, according to the news agency. Any quarries that are “grandfathered” in, would not be subject to requirements on the depth of the quarry, how it affects wells, what the explosive weight needs to be, and other provisions of Act 250 land use, he said.

Slate industry representatives asked if the 200-foot buffer requirement applied to a residential structure, or the property line itself. “The language wasn’t clear,” Jonathan Hill of Greenstone Slate in Wells said during the meeting, according to the news agency. “That was unintentional, but it can be interpreted a certain way. They can create a gap that then leads to legal ramifications.” 

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The Planning Commission scheduled a follow-up meeting on Feb. 19 to consider the setback proposal. Commission Chairman Mark Teeter asked representatives of the slate quarry to contact their respective listers to find out if the buildings around their quarry properties were built before the quarry was operational.

Neil Vreeland, attorney for the town, said the proposal could possibly be amended to accommodate pre-existing quarries. “Existing quarries have a lot of grandfathering potential,” he said during the meeting, according to the news agency. “The way the proposal is written, it falls under conditional use.”

The Planning Commission did not reach a consensus on what a reasonable setback for slate quarry operations.

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