January 21, 2019

DRB: Gun club must remove ‘unclean’ fill

By Stephanie Choate
Observer staff
The latest dustup in a long and often contentious feud between a Williston shooting range and its neighbors centered on fill used in its state-mandated remediation project.
After a neighbor appealed a town zoning decision, the Williston Development Review Board on Tuesday night decided that the North Country Sportsman’s Club must remove any fill that violates the conditions of its town permit.
The DRB instructed Zoning Administrator Ken Belliveau to send a notice of zoning violation and “instruct the gun club to pull out any material in the fill that did not meet the definition that was included in the DRB approval of Oct. 8,” Belliveau told the Observer on Wednesday morning.
The decision becomes final when the DRB approves its meeting minutes, likely in July. The decision can then be appealed.
The club is currently grading a bowl surrounded by berms, to channel rainwater and lead shot into the center of a field, away from the Sucker Brook. The construction is part of a remediation and stewardship plan worked out with the state Department of Environmental Conservation to improve soil and water quality. A 2012 DEC study—prompted by complaints from Lead Free Williston, a group of concerned neighbors— found that high levels of lead in a tributary to Sucker Brook were caused by shooting from the club.
In May, Williston resident Mona Boutin appealed a zoning decision by Belliveau, essentially determining that the club did not have to remove items in the fill that didn’t conform to the terms of permit approval. Belliveau said that when the DRB approved a permit for the work last fall, board members saw Boutin’s photos of construction debris in the fill and did not include any requirements to remove the debris.
“My position (was) simply that the board did not instruct the applicants to go and remediate what was there,” Belliveau told the Observer earlier this month.
Boutin, however, said in her appeal that the town should uphold all conditions of its permit.
Included in her appeal were photos of the fill of what appeared to be iron rebar, plastic piping and fabric. She also displayed the photos at the October DRB meeting, when the board approved a discretionary permit for the work.
Williston does not have any bylaws or definitions regarding clean or unclean fill. The requirements considered by the DRB came from part of the permit approved in October. The Conservation Commission—which makes recommendations to boards like the DRB—suggested that the fill not include certain items. The DRB accepted those suggestions as part of the project requirements.
“This was a particular recommendation from the Conservation Commission that was adopted as a condition of approval by the DRB,” Belliveau said.
An Oct. 8 memo from the Conservation Commission includes “clean fill shall not include any asphalt, building debris, or metal, steel, wire mesh, or the like, embedded in concrete slabs” among its recommendations.
The Development Review Board on Tuesday took one step toward approving a discretionary permit for a subdivision involving a park and ride near Exit 12 off Interstate 89.
The project would divide the parcel into three lots, one of which would be a state owned and operated park and ride.
During the meeting, Vermont Department of Transportation representatives said they intend to shift the property boundaries of the park and ride, so the DRB opted to continue the hearing to July 22. Belliveau said he expects that meeting to be smooth, however.
“We’ve really come a long way from where we were back in May,” he said. “It looks like most, if not all, of the major issues are all resolved.”
The conceptual plans for the park and ride, developed by VTrans engineers, include 146 spaces—including four bicycle spaces and five handicapped spots—and a shelter.
The park and ride would also require approval of an Act 250 permit from the State of Vermont Natural Resources Board.

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