Town scrambles to void unintended ban on landfills, recycling

Snafu forces public hearing on zoning revisions

By Tom Gresham
Observer staff

An apparent bureaucratic snafu eliminated a proposed landfill as an acceptable use in the agricultural/rural residential zoning district, but town officials are moving to correct the mistake.

Williston Town Planner Lee Nellis said the “C” that would indicate landfills and transfer stations are conditional uses in the district is missing from the town’s zoning table. Nellis said he initially wondered if the absence of the “C” was a typo, but he did not find any evidence that it was an accidental omission.

Therefore, the town will go through a public process of revising the table.

“It appears to have been an inadvertent thing and we’re just trying to correct it,” Nellis said. “We have to go through the process and make sure there are no questions about it. It’s just a formality — at least from the town’s point of view.”

Last week, the Selectboard agreed to schedule a public hearing on the proposed zoning changes. The hearing will be held Monday, June 6 at 7:30 p.m. during a Selectboard meeting.

In addition to the missing “C” for landfills and transfer stations, there is no “C” alongside the line for recycling centers in the district.

The Chittenden Solid Waste District currently has a transfer station on Redmond Road that accepts recycling in the agricultural-rural district. Waste Systems International operates the facility. CSWD has plans to replace the transfer station with a landfill in the same vicinity sometime in 2008. In addition, Waste Systems International operates a recycling center for CSWD at the site.

The transfer station and recycling center are now characterized as non-conforming uses because of the apparently accidental change in the zoning table.

The Selectboard revised the town’s zoning ordinance early in 2004. The change to the zoning tables removing landfills, transfer stations and recycling centers as acceptable uses appears to have been made back then.

The town had little motivation to remove the operations as acceptable uses. The removal violates the town’s host town agreement with CSWD. The town receives compensation for the refuse deposited at the facilities.

Selectboard member Jeff Fehrs said he believes he remembers talking about the proposed landfill during the zoning ordinance discussions. He thought the Selectboard had included the landfill as a conditional use.

The Planning Commission held a public hearing on the proposed changes on April 19. The hearing lasted from 7:31 p.m. to 7:32 p.m., according to minutes of the meeting. Only Richard Hamlin and Tony Barbagallo, a representative of Chittenden Solid Waste District, were in attendance. Both supported the change.

“It was a pretty sleepy event,” Nellis said.

Fehrs emphasized that his interest in changing the zoning regulations to allow for landfills and similar uses was not because a landfill was proposed for the district, but because it fits with the comprehensive town plan.