By ANDY KIRKALDY
FERRISBURGH — South Burlington’s Champlain Oil Co. (COCO) has submitted a new application for a gas station. convenience store and fast-food restaurant on Route 7 in Ferrisburgh that its management hopes will be more acceptable to town residents.
The company has also submitted a traffic study that recommends a left-turn lane for southbound traffic on the highway to serve the project, which is proposed for Route 7’s east side on the site of the former Ferrisburgh Roadhouse. It concludes that the truck stop would not have an undue impact on area traffic.
Among the project changes are a larger lot size, redesigned canopies and lighting, a smaller diesel refueling area with fewer large truck-size parking spaces, and an increase of project green space and plantings.
COCO President Tony Cairns said at least some of the changes have been made “based on comments from the crowd” of residents at public hearings. Many have objected to the appearance and scale of the multi-use business on the prominent site, which lies in a village area not far from the town’s elementary school and new office building.
“We have a better plan,” Cairns said. “We have a sensitivity to the town.”
Last Wednesday night COCO made a brief appearance before the town’s board of zoning adjustment to withdraw its former application and submit its new one. The board will hold its first hearing on the new plan at 7:05 p.m. on June 3. COCO’s plan may be reviewed at the town clerk’s office.
Cairns said COCO had hoped to simply amend the earlier application, but was told it could not and instead submitted a new one. COCO also on Wednesday handed in other material requested by the zoning board: updated lighting and landscaping plans and the traffic study.
Cairns hopes the board now has all the information it needs, and that starting fresh will not delay the overall process.
“Now that we have our traffic, landscaping and lighting done, I don’t see why it will slow it down ... The changes we have done all are positive,” Cairns said.
The traffic study, based on Institute of Traffic Engineers manuals, concluded that the business would generate 235 “vehicle trips” during peak hours, but that “Not all trips generated by this project will be new traffic” because some customers would be “pass-by” drivers who elect to pull in. The study estimates the percentage of these pass-by customers to be 50 to 56 percent.
It also states that Route 7 near the project is “not a high crash location.”
The traffic study makes two key conclusions: One, that “an exclusive southbound left turn lane is warranted” on Route 7. Cairns said COCO is proposing to the Agency of Transportation that the highway is wide enough there to achieve that goal by re-striping the surface, but that the AOT could rule the road should be widened.
The second is that, “The increase in vehicle trips entering and exiting the site resulting from the construction of a convenience store with fueling positions and a fast-food restaurant with drive-through will not unreasonably increase traffic on Route 7.”
An April 22 letter to Ferrisburgh zoning administrator Tom Mansfield from Liam Murphy of Burlington law firm Murphy Sullivan Kronk outlines the changes.
The first change listed is a lot-size increase to 9.04 acres, which would mean that all of the project, including its septic and drainage systems, would be on the lot, and not on neighboring land now owned by Greg and Sue Burdick of Vergennes. COCO is proposing to buy land from both the Burdicks and Roadhouse owners Marcos and Claudia Llona of Shelburne.
Murphy also wrote that the parcel change answers one objection raised by some, that the original smaller lot may not have met lot size requirements for three uses. “The increased lot size also addresses any concerns about whether there are 2 acres required for each of the three uses of the project,” Murphy wrote.
Murphy also noted that the new proposal calls for reducing the paved area by about 9 percent; cutting the number of diesel pumps from four to three; dropping from nine to four the number of parking spaces large enough for “tractor trailers, campers, recreational vehicles, agricultural vehicles, moving vans, etc.”; and adding “significantly more plantings.” Plans in the town office also show a small picnic area with two tables.
Two major changes were proposed for the canopies over the gas pumps. Both received makeovers, getting peaked, Colonial-style roofs, and the larger one, over the gas pumps, would be attached to the 4,800-square-foot building that would house both the 2,600-square-foot store and 2,200-square-foot restaurant.
As for the identity of the restaurant, Cairns said McDonald’s remains his top choice, but other possibilities include Burger King, Tim Hortons, and Dunkin’ Donuts.
“We don’t have a deal with McDonald’s yet,” he said.
COCO also now proposes to use LED lights in the exterior of the project. Company planning and development manager Paul Wamsganz said the LED lights would cost about three times as much to buy and install up front, but are more efficient and would have a 10-year payback schedule.
For Ferrisburgh, Wamsganz said, the LED lights would mean less glare and a more attractive project.
“It’s a much better technology,” Wamsganz said. “It’s a lot less wattage, and it’s a more pleasing light.”