Wednesday November 21, 2012

KEITH WHITCOMB JR.

Staff Writer

SHAFTSBURY -- The Select Board voted Monday to approve a certificate of location for Brownell’s Auto Wrecking Service.

The board has been discussing the salvage yard, located on White Creek Road, since July after the business applied for a certificate.

Brownell’s has been in operation since 1949. However, a 2009 law gave towns the authority to require certain conditions of salvage yards. Also in 2009, state inspectors found a number of problems with the yard, and Brownell’s subsequently invested more than $100,000 in new screening and drainage structures, according to owner Bill Brownell.

The inspections also led to the business having to test water regularly.

According to a report drafted by board Chairman Lon McClintock, the salvage yard is in a rural residential zone and qualifies as a pre-existing non-conforming use. It’s abutted on all sides by homes, and to the west is a brook that leads to the Walloomsac River. The brook itself is also fed by a stream to the south of the salvage yard. According to the report, the salvage yard is on a hill, and if not otherwise channeled, surface water would run through it and into the waterways.

McClintock wrote that Brownell testified at a hearing that the yard processes between 40 and 80 vehicles in a month, with most of the activity being in the summer. The vehicles are drained of fluid, including freon, which is stored for recycling. The vehicles themselves are crushed and sold as scrap metal, and some parts are salvaged and sold separately. The state also provides Brownell’s with a special container for collecting mercury switches.

Brownell’s has hired Paul Miller, a hydrologist, to conduct regular water testing at three test wells dug around the site, as well as the drinking water well. A berm has been built around the high end of the yard to channel water away from it, and a sand trap is located near the front to catch what water does come from the yard.

According to the findings, in 2002 two landowners abutting Brownell’s filed a lawsuit against it in Bennington Superior Court Civil Division. A court order issued in 2004 put a number of requirements on the yard, which the board incorporated into its own list of requirements.

According to McClintock, the court ordered that Brownell would keep junked cars in an enclosure not visible from the road, that cars would not be piled higher than the fence around the property, which itself was to be kept in good repair. Other conditions involved planting trees and following state statutes.

Many of the town’s requirements are things the yard is already doing, namely keeping up with the water testing by a qualified and licensed hydrologist and maintaining the drainage structures that have been built. It also requires dead trees be removed and healthy ones put in their place. It also limits the hours of the car crusher to between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. during the week and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday.

The approval expires June 30, 2016, at which time the yard must apply once more.