New luxury hotel at Morgan Horse Museum site?

By Carol Casey

Elizabeth Hern, a Shelburne resident and hospitality industry consultant, appeared before the Planning Commission at its meeting on June 14 to ask them to consider a zoning change in the museum district which would allow her to transform the old Morgan Horse Museum into a small luxury hotel.  The Waldorf School had previously indicated their interest in moving their high school to this site, but their option on the property has expired.  They may yet pursue those plans.  In the meantime, however, Hern proposed converting the existing building into a hotel with a maximum of 20 rooms and a restaurant that would be open to the public for lunch and dinner.  She intends to expand the site by up to 8,000 square feet, if approved.  Hern reported that she had discussed this concept with Shelburne Museum officials who responded positively and will pursue a more formal partnership with the Museum in the near future.  Commission members were enthusiastic about this plan, with Ron Bouchard commenting that he would be “all for this use.” The Commissioners asked Director of Planning and Zoning Dean Pierce to draft alternative language that would permit a hotel and restaurant in the museum district for their consideration at their next meeting on June 28.

Commission Chair Brian Precourt reported on the Commission’s site visit to Shelburne Farms immediately prior to this meeting where Commissioners looked at the location of the proposed wind turbine near the existing solar orchard.  Alec Webb provided depictions of the wind turbine showing that it would not impact on the view shed and would add a new element for the Farm’s educational programs on renewable energy.  Commissioners did not express any objections to the wind turbine and a request for a Certificate of Public Good for the installation is likely to be filed shortly with the Public Service Board.

Matt Lutz, a professor at Norwich University who oversaw his students’ work in developing concepts for the Shelburne Road corridor, next gave a brief presentation with student illustrations of various designs for a visitor center near the intersection of Bay and Shelburne Roads.  He thanked the town for providing this opportunity for the students who do not often have a chance to work on large scale urban projects.  He noted how impressed the students were by their visit to the breeding barn at Shelburne Farms and by the assets Shelburne had to offer tourists.  He reported that students were especially struck by how flat the Route 7 corridor is which opens up great possibilities for developing bicycle, cross country skiing, and hiking trails looping from a visitor center through the town to the lakeshore and back to the visitor center, with rest stops by shops, restaurants, the Shelburne Museum, and Shelburne Farms.   Lutz cited Stowe as an example of how this can be done successfully.  He also said students were opposed to any “faux” buildings that would be caricatures of “authentic” Shelburne architecture, such as the “silo” depicted on the cover of the Dennis report.  Instead, the students recommended an eye catching, unusual “monumental” structure to house the visitor center. One such student sketch illustrated a 25,000 square foot building that would be an “artists in residence” facility featuring an art gallery, a visitor information center and a location for bike and ski rentals.

Pierce presented suggested revisions to certain sections of the Town Plan which generated some discussion of the housing and energy segments.  However, the Commissioners decided to focus at their next meeting on finalizing the two sections on growth and future land use with the objective of then sending those sections to the Selectboard, asking for their feedback to ascertain whether the Commission was on the right track in addressing the Selectboard’s concerns.

As part of their continuing review of the subdivision regulations, the Commissioners quickly went over 26 pages of suggested change that primarily updated inaccurate, inconsistent or outdated references to statutory requirements and zoning regulations.  They singled out four areas, including density, open space, and streets, to discuss in more detail at their next meeting.

The Planning Commission will meet again on Thursday, June 28 and again on Thursday, July 12 at 7 pm in the Shelburne Municipal Center.


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