CSWD wins Supreme Court case
Feb. 16, 2012
By Luke Baynes
After nearly 20 years of being recycled through the Vermont court system, a dispute between the Chittenden Solid Waste District and Hinesburg Sand & Gravel Co. over a planned landfill site on Redmond Road in Williston has been disposed.
In a decision filed Feb. 7, the Vermont Supreme Court ruled that HS&G is not entitled to compensation in excess of the $4 million CSWD paid in February 2009 for the Redmond Road sand pit formerly owned by HS&G.
Counsel for HS&G unsuccessfully argued that there was a material change in the value of the property between the valuation date of January 1, 2000 and the date payment was received in 2009.
The history of the protracted legal battle stretches back to 1992, when CSWD first began condemnation proceedings on the property.
In 2004, a jury determined that CSWD should pay HS&G $4 million for the land and $4.8 million in business losses. In March 2005, Chittenden County Superior Court Judge Matthew Katz eliminated the $4.8 million award for business losses. Katz’s decision was upheld by the Vermont Supreme Court in 2007.
The recent appeal to the Supreme Court stems from an October 2010 decision by Superior Court Judge Helen Toor to deny HS&G’s motion to amend the $4 million payment amount. The Supreme Court concurred with Toor’s assessment that the income-based valuation method used by HS&G consultant Richard Sterner — which valued the property at over $15 million — was inconsistent with the method used by the 2004 jury.
“However difficult it may be to value land such as a sand pit, the trial court must have before it some way to compare values during the relevant period,” the Supreme Court decision reads. “Sterner’s supplemental affidavit did nothing to aid the court in determining whether there had been a material increase.”
CSWD General Manager Tom Moreau said that while he was pleased with the decision rendered by the court, it won’t change the immediate plans of the waste district.
“Obviously, nobody wants to build a landfill while there’s still litigation ongoing, so it’s good to have that behind us,” Moreau said. “But we’re still focusing on reducing the amount of trash in the county, to see what we can get it down to, prior to designing and looking at (building) a landfill.”
Moreau said the recycling habits of citizens could have a large impact on the amount of trash destined for landfills.
“By our calculations, we throw 19,000 tons in the landfill every year that people could put in their blue box (for recycling),” said Moreau. “So people threw in 19,000 tons (last year) that was worth $130 a ton.”
There are currently two active landfills in the state, located in Coventry and Moretown.