Neighbors Oppose Quarry Reopening

By Ed Barna - 5-19-94

Pittsford - the OMYA marble company's bid to

reopen four quarries near their plant in Florence met

strong opposition from neighbors at Act 250 land use

hearings Tuesday and Wednesday.

Nearby landowners testified to their concerns

about traffic, blasting impacts, dust, water draining

from the area, and loss of property value. Kathleen

Pilcher said outside the hearing that after talking

with several other neighbors, she is certain there

will be an appeal if the project receives an Act 250


And Fish and Wildlife Department biologist said

the project would imperil about eight acres of deer

yard on the 325-acre site.

OMYA consulting biologist Errol Briggs and

consulting forester Robbo Holleran countered that

hardly any deer depend on the site for winter

survival, partly because there are other deer yards in

the area.

The company plans to turn the so-called Hogback

quarries into one open pit operation and send out

crushed rock at a rate of 40 truck loads a day.

District 1 Environmental Commission Chairman

Robert Bloomer recessed the hearing Wednesday until an

indefinite date, pending the arrival of information on

a dozen or so points at issue. He said there may or

may not be another public hearing after parties

respond to the new information.

The intensity of the public reaction came as a

surprise to OMYA, which had chosen the Hogback site to

replace marble from Brandon's Smoke Rise Quarry after

1995 because the Florence site was relatively remote.

Located between two ridges that would scene the noise

from crushing and screening rocks, it is only half a

mile north of the grinding plant it would supply, thus

reducing traffic impacts.

On Wednesday resident Thomas Pilcher urged OMYA

to put a new rail line on the old railroad bed running

through the site and deliver calcium carbonate ore to

the plant that way. OMYA attorney Edward Schwiebert

and OMYA geologist Donald Burns and Holleran agreed

that was impossible because no railroad could climb

the 15 degree grade to where trucks now dump rocks the

plant will use.

But OMYA is considering another compromise;

building a new road along the ridge, straight to the

plant, rather than building a 1,800-foot haul road to

Fire Hill Road. OMYA had already reached an agreement

with selectmen that they would rebuild Fire Hill Road,

something selectmen said would compensate for any

financial impact of the truck traffic.

Neighbors reacted favorably to the idea, once

they were assured that dust control measures would be

used along the new road if it had a gravel surface.

Schwiebert said the company will investigate paving


But OMYA water consultant Jeffrey Nelson warned

that state and federal agencies would have to

cooperate on wetland issues before any such road could

be built.

Briggs said there could also be a problem with

the Fish and Wildlife Department because building that

road would require cutting some of the cedar trees

that are prime food for deer.

The greatest part of Wednesday's testimony

concerned the deer yard issue. Briggs said that in

the three of the five past winters for which there is

information, few if any deer bedded down in the area,

even after the great blizzard of 1993.

State biologist Douglas Blodgett, backed by

Agency of Natural Resources attorney Kurt Janson, said

the Act 250 criteria relate to the loss of key

habitat, not the number of deer involved.

Commissioners pressed them for specifics - whether

one deer was enough to stop a project, whether losing

1 percent of the deer yard was too much, whether

economic benefits could outweigh the loss. But

Blodgett and Janson held firm in saying the deer yard

issue could justify rejection of the permit.

However, Blodgett said the the state is working

with OMYA on a compromise in which OMYA would maintain

a deer yard in Proctor as mitigation for any

short-term loss of habitat in Florence. In the long

run, he said, OMYA's plan for forest improvements away

from the quarrying will increase deer habitat.

Blodgett said the problem is not so much the

cutting of trees as the noise of trucks, which would

make deer lose vital energy by moving around in the

winter. Briggs countered that deer can be seen

regularly near Vermont interstate highways, and have

learned to live near Bangor International Airport in


Holleran said the Proctor site was a poor choice

for mitigation because the mature pine trees there

give little cover and have better value as timber.

That area will never regenerate as softwood after the

pines are gone, he said.