Panel: Law opposes cemetery removalBy Josh O'Gorman STAFF WRITER | June 11,2009HARTLAND — An Act 250 decision for a man seeking to relocate a cemetery on this property has raised more questions than it answers.
Last week, the District 3 Environmental Commission responded to a petition from J. Michel Guite, who is seeking to abandon the Act 250 permit on his 148-acre farm. The permit governed renovations and new construction to be performed by the prior owners of the farm, the Unified Buddhist Church.
Since early 2008, Guite has sought to relocate a small cemetery on the property and appeared to win the right to do so in Windsor County Superior Court. However, the Environmental Commission ruled the Act 250 permit granted the Unified Buddhist Church was still in effect, and that permit required the landowner to observe a 50-foot buffer around the cemetery.
The Environmental Commission performed a site visit in May and looked at two components of the permit: renovations of existing buildings and new construction. After observing a pair of barns that had been converted to living quarters, but little in the way of new construction, the commission ruled the portion of the permit governing new construction was abandoned, but the portion governing renovations was not.
"We got sort of a mixed bag from the commission, which raises as many questions as it answers," said Guite's attorney, Christopher D. Roy of Downs Rachlin Martin.
The commission's decision explicitly notes that stream and cemetery buffers are still in effect.
"It's interesting they picked those two terms out of the hundreds contained in the permit to reference," Roy said.
Elaine Brousseau, who has party status because she has three wells on Guite's property and has deeded water rights, applauded the commission's ruling.
"I think the commission made an accurate decision," she said. "I support Act 250. I know Gov. Douglas wants to streamline the process. I know it's time-consuming, but I think sometimes it should be."
Roy said his client's next step is to either appeal the decision to Environmental Court or file a motion for clarification with the Environmental Commission. Guite, however, didn't see the decision as a barrier to his plans to relocate the cemetery.
"This was an ideological decision, not a legal decision. They're saying Act 250 governs farms in Vermont, and I'm sure they're well-intentioned, but I don't think there's a farmer in the state who thinks it's a good idea," he said. "The cemetery is going to be moved this summer, the only question is where."
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