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Zoning change pitched near new Middlebury bridge

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury selectboard is considering an interim zoning change that would open the door to more business development near the east end of the soon-to-be completed Cross Street Bridge.
The board is tentatively set to hold a public hearing on Sept. 28 to receive feedback on the plan, which calls for zoning for properties fronting Cross and South Pleasant streets to be changed from “office-apartment” to “village-residential-commercial.”
“It is to recognize the geography of the town is changing with the bridge,” said Middlebury Town Planner Fred Dunnington. “These streets will change in their character due to the nature of traffic that will now be on them.”
Allowable uses in the office-apartment district include home occupations, one- and two-family homes and bed and breakfasts. Conditional uses include barber/beauty shops, funeral homes, inns, churches, schools, vegetable stands, assisted living, rooming houses and public parks.
The new village-residential-commercial designation — which would take effect after the new bridge is built — allows for more intensive conditional uses, including banks, restaurants, retail stores, service stations and indoor recreation. If approved, the interim change would be incorporated into the next town plan revision.
The change, in essence, would open up Cross Street and South Pleasant Street to the same development potential as Washington and Seymour streets, according to Dunnington.
He stressed that the Middlebury Development Review Board will, through the conditional use review process, be able to “ensure that what happens is not inappropriate with the character of the neighborhood.” Dunnington noted the zoning change would affect a combined total of around 18 lots, many of which are already developed and unlikely to be switched to different uses anytime soon. But there will soon be at least one vacant lot available for development under the new zoning designation — the former Champlain Valley Unitarian Universalist Society (CVUUS) property at 6 Cross St. The town owns the lot and will soon demolish the CVUUS building and sell the lot.
The proposed zoning changes for South Pleasant and Cross streets are part of the Middlebury selectboard’s broader strategy of promoting greater retail/commercial development near the new bridge. Due for completion on Oct. 30, the $16 million Cross Street Bridge will feature a span linking Main Street to Court Street across the Otter Creek, via Cross Street. The project also features a series of road improvements on either side of the span, including a roundabout intersection now under construction on Main Street.
Officials will schedule a forum this fall to showcase potential business development and parking scenarios on town- and Middlebury College-owned land behind the Ilsley Library, another key area near the new span.
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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