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Permit Problems

Come smell or high water


Published March 5, 2008 at 8:24 a.m.

Each year Megan Kolbay, owner of Earthgirl Composting, drops off around 6000 pounds of waste - including beef bones, tea bags, cotton balls and pizza boxes - at Intervale Compost Products. The single mom zips around each week to homes and offices in Chittenden and Washington counties, scoops up buckets of scraps, and brings them to the Burlington business and to Montpelier's smaller Vermont Composting Company. There the detritus is converted into a rich source of nutrients for Vermont's fields and farms. Earthgirl Composting, which is just over 2 years old, is Kolbay's sole source of income.

Now, the Intervale must cease composting because of its failure to comply with Act 250 - and that news has hit Kolbay harder than most. "I don't know what's going to happen if they do shut down and nothing else opens up. I'm kind of taking it day by day," she explains. While Kolbay is exploring the possibility of doing bigger drop-offs at the Montpelier composting facility, she isn't sure VCC will be able to deal with the higher capacity.

The "Earth Girl" is encouraging folks to call their legislators and ask them to help make the Intervale Center exempt from the permitting Act 250 requires. As far as she can see, that's the only way to keep the facility, which processes 18,000 tons of waste per year, from going under. If Intervale Compost Products closes, Kolbay fears, all that organic waste will end up in a landfill.

"It's just really sad to me. I think that the Intervale is so integral to living sustainably in Vermont and particularly in Burlington and the surrounding areas," she opines. And for Kolbay, it's also integral to making a living.

Another permitting problem is unfolding in Montpelier, thanks to everybody's favorite government agency: FEMA. According to a recent article in the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus, Jeff Jacobs, owner of Montpelier Property Management, is looking to buy a vintage diner and lease it out to an interested restaurateur. He even owns the perfect vacant lot on which to place it.

Problem is, the lot is a mere 526 feet above sea level. According to FEMA's rules for flood insurance, a site must be 530 feet above sea level to qualify. If it's not, writes business correspondent Patrick Timothy Mullikin, "Montpelier could lose federal disaster assistance funds should [it] flood again."

Unless the diner car can be elevated by 4 feet, or the land is re-surveyed and found to be just a bit higher in elevation, the new diner will be a no go.