Vt. Supreme Court says

Lawsuits over planned landfill will persist

By Kim Howard
Observer staff

The Vermont Supreme Court has denied a motion by Hinesburg Sand and Gravel Co. to reargue a case the company lost this spring to the Chittenden Solid Waste District.

“That pretty much does it for Vermont,” said Tim Casey, general manager of Hinesburg Sand and Gravel Co. “We already have (the waste district) in court with a case on the federal level anyway. Now that will be able to go forward.”

In April, the Vermont Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision that Hinesburg Sand and Gravel is not entitled to $4.8 million in business losses due to the seizing of their Williston sand pit by Chittenden Solid Waste District. The court also ruled the company is not entitled to interest beyond the fair market value of the land as of January 2000. The Vermont Supreme Court said the company proved their case the wrong way, according to company attorney Robert O’Neill of Gravel and Shea, even though the lower court judge had instructed them to proceed that way. Hinesburg Sand and Gravel therefore filed a motion to reargue.

Waste district General Manager Tom Moreau said the next step is to determine the value of the land.

“I still don’t expect this thing to be done for another year and a half,” Moreau said. “That’s just the nature of the beast.”

Moreau said it was “nice” the waste district won the denial for re-argument.

“It was 5-0 by the Supreme Court,” he said. “It was pretty simple.”

The decision is only one sentence, stating the motion for re-argument “fails to satisfy the criteria set forth in Vermont Rules for Appellate Procedure 40, and it is therefore denied.” That rule states that the requesting party must identify the “points of law or fact” that the party believes the court “overlooked or misapprehended.”

Casey said he is frustrated by the court’s decision.

“They gave no reason,” Casey said. “They didn’t point out why it was, and they just left it at that. So we have no idea why.”

The court’s most recent decision, however, is not the end of the line for lawsuits regarding the 76 acres on Redmond Road for which the Chittenden Solid Waste District is planning a regional landfill.

An earlier federal lawsuit by Hinesburg Sand and Gravel Co. against the waste district was stayed pending the outcome of the Vermont Supreme Court process. The waste district began legal proceedings 15 years ago to seize the sandpit for creation of a new regional landfill. Hinesburg Sand and Gravel Co. sued the waste district for violating its constitutional rights in the taking of the land. Now that legal options in Vermont have been exhausted, Casey said, the federal case should move forward.

Not even that will be the end of it, Casey said.

“They still have to provide us the sand in a suitable condition from that site without damaging it, which we don’t believe they can do,” Casey said. “Once they do that and ruin the sand, which they will, we’re going to sue them again” for violating the court’s order.

“It’s just going to be endless lawsuits,” Casey said.

Outside the ongoing legal battle with Hinesburg Sand and Gravel, a group of 37 Williston residents and property owners – representing about 20 households – has filed a lawsuit against the Town of Williston and the waste district regarding the planned landfill. Those residents are seeking to invalidate a 1992 agreement in which Williston town officials promised the town would host a regional landfill.

Moreau said he and his colleagues turned over 35 banker’s boxes of documents to their attorneys last week, who Moreau said have advised that the earliest that case will go to court is the fall of 2008.

Craig Abrahams, one of the plaintiffs, said in an e-mail they have recently asked the court to accept a motion for judgment without a full trial.