Brandon board shrinks project

BRANDON — The Brandon Development Review Board has denied an application for a 56,000-square-foot shopping market plaza roughly a mile south of downtown, but has approved a scaled-down version of the project.
The board voted unanimously in its decision to deny the Act 250 application filed by developer Bill McCabe to build a 36,000-square-foot Hannaford supermarket, a 12,000-square-foot line of smaller stores, and a 5,000-square-foot standalone outbuilding, plus a 295-space parking lot.
In its Act 250 land use decision regarding conformance with the town plan, the DRB voted 5-0 to reduce the size and scope of the project, allowing for the construction of just the 36,000-square-foot Hannaford store, a smaller, 145-space parking lot, and the elimination of the planned Nickerson Road access.
“The board finds that the size and scale of the original project does not conform with the scope and scale of Criteria 10 of the town plan,” the board wrote in its decision.
Criteria 10 in the Act 250 land use law states that any project larger than 10 acres must conform with the local town plan, and it is up to the local DRB to decide whether a project conforms to that criterion. Once a project gains local permit approval, the area District Environmental Commission decides whether it conforms to the other nine criteria.
The DRB did approve a conditional use permit for the scaled-down version, including a laundry list of conditions. They include conditions in the following areas:
Water. Elimination of the proposed small sewage pump station to service the proposed 5,000-square-foot building.
Due to the reduction in the scale of the project, there could be a reduction in the water line. New plans will be submitted to the zoning administrator prior to construction.
Traffic. Traffic pattern is conditionally approved with the elimination of the Nickerson Road access. The board found the need for traffic mitigation on High Street. Such action may include but is not limited to closing High Street to through-traffic or designating it a one-way street. The DRB found the traffic impact study submitted by the applicant does not adequately address the proposed increase in traffic usage on High Street. There is no plan to rectify this.
Historic and Natural Area Protection. Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife has flagged four potential roost trees for bats and will request a condition in the project’s Act 250 permit that these four trees not be cut between April 1 and Nov. 1 in order to avoid harm or disturbance to Indiana bats in these trees. The four trees may be cut outside of that period upon receipt of a written authorization from the department and upon demonstration that the trees have been adequately monitored for bat use.
The developer was also required to replant the natural vegetation that would have been pre-existing.
Noise. The developer will erect a wood fence for screening purposes as proposed. The fence will serve as a noise barrier. There will be no noise that exceeds 70 decibels at the property line during daylight hours or 60 decibels at other times.
There will be no idling delivery trucks.
Blasting/Vibration. All blasting on the property as part of construction must not result in peak particle velocities exceeding 0.5 inches per second on the property of another landowner. In addition, the developer must comply with these proposed “blasting guidelines” in connection with any blasting activities on the site.
Fire, Explosive, or Safety Hazard and Hazardous Materials. There will be no more than eight, 1,000-gallon aboveground storage tanks. With the project’s reduced size, there should be fewer than eight tanks needed.
Regarding the Nickerson Road access, the DRB found that it “will place an unreasonable burden on the ability of the town to provide municipal or governmental services.”
Calls to McCabe for comment were not returned by press time.
In its Act 250 decision, the board said that the Brandon Town Plan supports the scaled-down version of the project because the proposed site is zoned for high-density multi-use development. In the economic development portion of the town plan, the board cited the introduction and “Future Land Use” portions to support its decision to reduce the size of the project.
The DRB also found support in the town plan for its decision to reduce the size and scope of the project in the Historic Resources portion of the town plan:
“(Brandon is) unique among Vermont towns because Brandon has not been harshly impacted by modern pressures such as strip development and big chain stores. This has allowed the town center to retain much of the character and charm of a turn-of-the-century village.”
It is the effect the Brandon Plaza project would have on Brandon’s ailing downtown that opponents fear the most. The Coalition for the Preservation of Historic Brandon, a Brandon citizens group, hired noted environmental attorney Jim Dumont of Bristol to represent its interests during the month-long hearing. Dumont argued that there are already numerous empty storefronts in Brandon, and that building the new Hannaford and ancillary stores would only draw more shoppers away from the downtown.
Jim Leary with the Coalition last week said he briefly reviewed the DRB’s decisions.
“I haven’t had a chance to fully digest them,” he said. “But my thought remains much the same as it always has. I’d just as soon see a supermarket in downtown Brandon than I would outside of town.”
In January, Hannaford bought the Grand Union business off Union
Street in Brandon and moved into the 19,000-square-foot building in February. Hannaford officials also said the move was temporary until the Brandon Plaza store is built.
“The reason is, as much as we want to serve the current market in Brandon, we definitely don’t believe that the Grand Union location is the right location for the long term,” Hannaford spokesman Mike Norton said at the time. “That location is smaller and can’t be expanded. We fully believe we need the supermarket location that is proposed on Nickerson Road for the long term.”
Norton said Hannaford is not yet prepared to comment on the DRB decision, but will do so soon.
While Hannaford contends it has no plans to expand, the DRB decision could change that decision. In May, the Coalition, working with the Preservation Trust of Vermont, purchased an option agreement on a one-acre parcel with landowners on Union Street adjacent to the downtown Hannaford building. The owner of the Hannaford building has also said he supports expansion at that location.
“It’s certainly my belief that the current location of the Hannaford in downtown Brandon could be made suitable for their needs to remain in Brandon,” Leary said.
It is possible that McCabe will appeal the DRB’s Act 250 decision to the District 1 Environmental Commission. The board’s conditional use permit decision on the scaled-down version of the project could be appealed to the state Environmental Court.

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