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September 26, 2008

Bristol Zoning Board Rejects Gravel Pit Proposal

Fgravel1 Last week, Bristol's Zoning Board of Adjustment rejected a controversial application for a 39-acre gravel pit. Debate over the proposed pit has been stewing for over five years and, according to Smart Growth Vermont, is a bellwether for other natural-resource conflicts in Vermont. (For more info on the Bristol controversy, see our June 2008 cover story, Open Vein.)

In its 5-2 decision, the Bristol board concluded that, under his current proposal, applicant Jim Lathrop would "create a pit for which [his application] does not make any provision to refill." Dissenting board members disagreed, claiming Lathrop's gravel extraction would create something resembling "a shallow dish, similar to a type of dinner plate."

Reached by phone Wednesday, Lathrop's lawyer, Mark Hall of Paul, Frank + Collins, said Lathrop might reapply for a zoning permit or challenge the board's decision in Vermont Environmental Court. "This decision is not even close to being fatal," Hall said, noting that the pit issue was the only one the board addressed in its decision. "The one point that they sided against us on is something we can cure."

John Moyers, a leading advocate for the anti-pit crowd, offered a different opinion. Moyers said by phone that Hall's argument was "spin." The zoning board, Moyers explained, didn't need to address "bigger, deeper issues" that had been raised by pit opponents, such as the pit's potential impact on the town of Bristol, because the pit-definition problem was enough to prevent Lathrop's application from passing muster.

"Frankly," said Moyers, "I think Mr. Lathrop should be pretty angry at his attorney."

Photo by Mike Ives.

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