Landfill decision appealed by residents10/02/08

Opponents seeking to void agreement

Oct. 2, 2008

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

Neighbors will appeal a ruling that struck down their legal challenge to an agreement between the town and the Chittenden Solid Waste District permitting a landfill to be built near their homes.

Craig Abrahams, one of the plaintiffs, said Tuesday that neighbors voted to pursue the appeal after consulting with attorneys. He said legal papers will be filed by the Oct. 2 deadline for appealing to the Vermont Supreme Court.

Abrahams emphasized that he and the other plaintiffs are not seeking monetary damages. They simply want “to correct the gross injustice” of the so-called host-town agreement, which he said is a bad deal for the entire town.

Chittenden Superior Court Judge Mathew Katz ruled last month that the legal challenge filed by 37 residents living in the Martel Hill subdivision, which is located less than a mile from the proposed landfill, was without merit. In his ruling, he said the host town agreement was permitted under state law and issues neighbors raised in their legal challenge were “largely political rather than judicial.”

The plaintiffs allege the agreement improperly delegated town authority to the waste district by allowing it to build a landfill at some undefined point in the future. The agreement, the plaintiffs said, also requires the town to support any permit application regardless of the specific proposal.

The host town agreement was approved in 1992. But opponents argue that the ballot question was so vague that voters did not understand exactly what they were approving.

Williston Town Manager Rick McGuire declined to comment on the appeal because he had not seen the legal paperwork.

Like the original challenge, the appeal was not unexpected, said Tom Moreau, CSWD’s general manager, and it will not alter the waste district’s immediate plans.

“It’s not going to affect us in the short term,” Moreau said. “We’ve been pretty much focused on composting and other diversion programs. The landfill is on the back burner at this point.”

Construction of the proposed landfill off Redmond Road is not expected to start anytime soon. CSWD must still purchase land where the landfill would be located and settle on a design. Moreau last year asked the district’s governing board to delay decisions on the landfill while he looks into ways to improve existing recycling efforts.

Abrahams said he and his fellow landfill foes are confident they will eventually prevail with their challenge to the host town agreement.

“Our legal team feels we have a very good case,” he said. “We’re hopeful that the Supreme Court will agree and decide in our favor.”