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Exit 4 Negotiations Continue Despite Commission Denial Of Memorandum

The District 3 Environmental Commission says it cannot approve a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between parties involved in a review of a proposed development at the Randolph exit off I-89.

Conservation Law Foundation, Vermont Natural Resources Council and Preservation Trust of Vermont are attempting to resolve their differences with developer Jesse Sammis through the use of a mediator.

At issue in the current limited review is the impact of the 172 acre mixed-use development on prime agricultural land and whether the project conforms with local and regional plans.

In a series of public proceedings held by the commission, CLF and VNRC have argued that more land can be preserved if the development is scaled back.

They say Sammis should not qualify for off-site mitigation, which enables the preservation of farmland elsewhere to offset land used for development.

In November lawyers for Sammis asked for extra timeto try to reach a negotiated agreement with the environmental groups.

Earlier this month, parties asked the environmental commission to approve an MOU  to protect against the use of confidential information disclosed in the negotiations in future public proceedings held by the commission. The MOU also asked that the commission consider sanctions against any party that violated its terms.

In denying the request to adopt the MOU, the commission said it is, “of the opinion that the MOU Parties’ request is beyond the scope of the powers delegated to the Commission.”

However the commission noted that rules of evidence generally disallow information from  negotiations to be used in proceedings.

In an earlier letter to the commission, CLF attorney Sandra Levine said the negotiations “are proceeding well,” and indicated the parties may ask for a Feb. 18 deadline to be extended.

Levine says the denial of the MOU does not change efforts to reach a negotiated settlement.

A Randolph area group called Exit 4 Open Space had asked the commission to deny the MOU.

Attorney Brooke Dingledine, who represents the group, questioned whether it is appropriate for the negotiations to be taking place at all.

Dingledine argued that under Act 250 rules, non-adversarial negotiations are meant to apply to specific issues, not an entire proposal.

The Act 250 provision for informal and non-adversarial resolution states, “the District Commissions shall promote expeditious, informal and non-adversarial resolution of issues.”

Steve has been with VPR since 1994, first serving as host of VPR’s public affairs program and then as a reporter, based in Central Vermont. Many VPR listeners recognize Steve for his special reports from Iran, providing a glimpse of this country that is usually hidden from the rest of the world. Prior to working with VPR, Steve served as program director for WNCS for 17 years, and also worked as news director for WCVR in Randolph. A graduate of Northern Arizona University, Steve also worked for stations in Phoenix and Tucson before moving to Vermont in 1972. Steve has been honored multiple times with national and regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for his VPR reporting, including a 2011 win for best documentary for his report, Afghanistan's Other War.
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