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New golf and mattress businesses postponed

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury’s Development Review Board (DRB) will spend the next few weeks discussing separate proposals seeking to bring a new mattress store, automotive reconditioning building and golf recreation facility to town.
The DRB on Monday, Jan. 23, will also resume its review of Vermont Hard Cider’s proposal to build a new, 87,005-square-foot plant on Exchange Street. Middlebury Town Planner Fred Dunnington said the board has already given the major project conceptual approval.
“We are just finishing up,” Dunnington said of the review of the plan, which would allow the fast-growing company to establish a permanent foothold in Middlebury for the manufacture of its popular hard cider. Vermont Hard Cider currently operates within 60,000 square feet of rented space at 153 Pond Lane.
Dunnington said the cider manufacturer has apparently assuaged landscaping and other concerns that had been expressed by the Bridge School, located next door to the proposed facility.
Also on the docket for the board’s Jan. 23 meeting is review of Gardner Stone’s proposal for an 11,900 square foot building at 1560 and 1562 Route 7 south. Stone is owner of G. Stone Motors, also on Route 7 south. This new structure, according to a project narrative on file at the Middlebury planning office, would be used for the “reconditioning of vehicles and equipment as well as (the Stones’) race car shop which is intended for the same use as described in the 2002 documents.”
The 2002 documents relate to a larger building Stone had sought — and received permission by the town to build — at the same location. That structure ultimately was not built, and now Stone is returning to the DRB proposing a slightly smaller and simplified structure, noted Middlebury Zoning Administrator Ted Dunakin.
Officials said two new issues will need to be resolved with this new application. The wetland area and buffer located on the property has been re-mapped since 2002, and now the spots previously suggested for plantings fall into a wetland area as defined by the state of Vermont. Also, a portion of the proposed building would stand 28 feet from the adjacent property line, which does not meet the town 50-foot setback requirement. As a result, the plan will need a setback waiver and a wetland permit from the state of Vermont, according to the project narrative.
Meanwhile, local businessman Tony Neri has filed plans for a 150-foot-by-50-foot building behind the A&W Restaurant on Route 7 south that would house some “virtual golf” machines, creemee sales and possibly winter storage space.
Virtual golf allows enthusiasts to play an entire round, or take practice swings, off a tee with their own clubs in an indoor setting. The player hits the golf ball into a screen that, with computer technology, charts the ball’s projected flight, speed and landing spot. This allows golfers to practice their game even during inclement weather, Neri explained.
Tentative plans call for Neri to purchase four of the golf simulators, which he called “Quite an invention, and really expensive.” He will apply for a license to sell beer and wine between Nov. 1 and April 1, when he anticipates the machines to be at peak use.
The proposed building would feature and overhang on each end to provide sun and rain cover for people eating creemees or food from the A&W, which the Neris own.
Neri’s business plan for the property also includes the potential for an outdoor miniature golf course and some batting cages. Plans for mini-golf are tentative due to the cost of such a venture, according to Neri.
The DRB is slated to discuss Neri’s proposal on Feb. 13, according to Dunakin. If things proceed smoothly, Neri said the new building should be in place by this summer.
In other local business news, Dunakin confirmed that Sleepy’s — which bills itself as the “largest mattress retailer in the world” — has filed a sign application to set up shop in an 8,000-square-foot vacancy in The Centre shopping plaza off Route 7 south. The new business would locate in space formerly occupied by Movie Gallery, in between the Olympia Sports and Green Mountain Show & Apparel venues. Chris Hunt, a partner in Myron Hunt Inc. (which owns The Centre), said Sleepy’s has been looking to expand in the Addison County area.
“This (space) fit the criteria for their stores,” Hunt said. “We are happy to have them. They are a good fit.”
The addition of Sleepy’s will leave The Centre with only 1,600 square feet of unoccupied space, according to Hunt.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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