Rice Lumber development project inches closer to approval

By Carol Casey

The Development Review Board (DRB) once again heard testimony about the Rice Lumber development project at its meeting on Aug. 1. DRB Chair David Conard reiterated that the developer had yet to convince him that traffic safety and connectivity issues were adequately addressed in the preliminary plan application.  An engineer hired by the applicant testified that the Vermont Transportation Agency had approved the plan from a traffic safety viewpoint, and that trucks could easily make the turn into the Rice Lumber yard at the traffic light at Longmeadow Drive.  In the absence of any evidence presented to the contrary, Conard conceded that he would yield on the traffic safety issue.

In regard to connectivity, developer Patrick O’Brien inquired whether it would be acceptable to include language deferring the need to demonstrate connectivity until preliminary plans for the actual development of proposed lots four, five, and six were submitted.  He argued that until the intended use and configuration of those lots were known, it was premature to designate a connection among and between them.  Conard responded that a connection could be deferred until a final plan was submitted, but not beyond that point, and any roadway illustrated in the final plan could be subsequently altered if approved by the DRB in the future.  In fact, the connection need only appear on paper and does not actually have to be constructed.  Other DRB members noted that the requirement for connectivity could be met by other means than a roadway, such as demonstrating connectivity through parking lots, as is often the case among businesses along certain sections of Williston Road.

After the discussion, the DRB voted to direct the staff to prepare a decision approving the preliminary plan application with well more than a dozen conditions that would have to be met, ranging from simply showing a bike rack to relocating the building envelopes on the proposed residential lots to minimize impact on the local bobcat population.  The staff draft will be discussed and voted upon at the DRB’s next meeting.

The DRB approved a conditional use application for the erection of a lakeshore erosion control structure at 3735 Harbor Road and improvements on the Harbor Road right-of-way to provide a stabilized embankment. The 2011 flooding in this area eroded much of the shoreline and caused slope failure under the road.

Brian Precourt, Chair of the Planning Commission chair, and Commission members Dick Elkins and Ron Bouchard joined the DRB meeting for an informal conversation to determine whether there were issues the DRB would like the Planning Commission to address more fully. They discussed a number of topics, focusing especially on having the Planning Commission consider:

-Defining “developable area” to clarify that building on slopes is permitted.

-Establishing better tools for controlling density.

-Requiring a survey whenever a proposed building is located near a property line to ensure measurements and boundary lines are accurate.

-Instituting a form based code for lakeshore properties.

-Amending language for expansion of buildings in the lakeshore overlay district to specify volume determination would be based on the existing grade level prior to any alterations.

-Setting standards for the appearance of seawalls.

-Creating a mechanism for post-construction verification to determine whether what was actually built conforms to what was approved.

-Resolving conflicts between the Town Plan and Public Works standards regarding street trees, street width, and related issues.

The Planning Commission is likely to discuss these topics at future meetings.

The next meeting of the Development Review Board is scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 15 at 7 pm in the Municipal Center.

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