City backs change at Small City Market
VERGENNES — Vergennes aldermen on May 11 acted again to back the Small City Market’s planned move into a proposed new building across South Water Street from its existing home.
Aldermen agreed unanimously at their meeting last week to grant a license to Small City Market owners Corey and Hilary Foote that will allow the store’s gas pumps and underground fuel tanks to be placed within the city’s Main Street right of way.
Aldermen in late February had already given the Footes permission to make parking improvements in the city right of way along the east side of their proposed new one-and-a-half-story, 2,800-square-foot convenience store and deli at the intersection of Main and South Water streets.
City Manager Mel Hawley said existing tanks and pumps for the former LeBeau and O’Brien property, which the Footes bought last year, already apparently are within that right of way. That fact became clear during the Footes’ application for a loan to expand out of their current basement storefront, he said.
Hawley said banks are increasingly unwilling to lend in such unusual circumstances, and he recommended aldermen consider granting the license.
“In this day and age, this sort of thing causes discomfort for lenders,” Hawley said.
Before aldermen acted, they wanted to make sure Vergennes would not be exposed to additional legal liability for potential fuel leaks from the underground tanks. Alderwoman Ziggy Comeau asked what would happen if fuel contaminated the nearby Otter Creek, for example.
Hawley said responsibility for hazardous material typically lies with those who buy, transport and store it, although he acknowledged he could not completely rule out city liability.
“If you purchase it, you own it,” he said.
Hawley also noted that a clause to hold the city harmless would be written into the agreement with the Footes. Because that would make them clearly the responsible party, the license would in fact offer the city more protection than beforehand, he said.
“If anything, getting a license agreement … improves the situation,” Hawley said.
Alderman Joe Klopfenstein also asked what would happen if pumps or tanks needed replacement. Hawley said the Footes already plan to replace the pumps, and that anything that would be replaced would have to be put in the same place on what is a 0.2-acre lot.
The Footes, Weybridge residents, have owned the Small City Market for 12 years and employ 10 people. They hope to have construction start soon on their new store, which would more than double their shop space. They received their needed city zoning permit for the project in March.
Andy Kirkaldy is at [email protected].