Middlebury, college ink land swap deal

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury selectboard on Tuesday unanimously approved an agreement with Middlebury College that formalizes a property swap that will lead to new municipal offices, a new recreation center and a new public park.
Local voters have already endorsed the town-gown deal, which calls for Middlebury to convey its current municipal building/gymnasium property at 94 Main St., along with another parcel at 6 Cross St., to the college.
In return, the college will convey its Osborne House property at 77 Main St. to the town, on which the community will erect a new municipal building.
The 12-page agreement also calls for the college to assume $4.5 million in debt service for the new municipal building and the new recreation center to be built off Creek Road. The college also agrees to pay the estimated $1 million costs of moving the Osborne House from 77 Main St. to 6 Cross St. and to replace the current municipal building/gym with a public park.
Along with defining the mechanics and components of the deal, the agreement establishes some timelines for completion of the upcoming building tasks. Tentative plans call for work to begin on the new buildings sometime this fall.
For example, the deal calls for:
•  The town to have completed construction of the new municipal building within 18 months of having been conveyed the Osborne House property.
•  The town to remove (at the college’s expense) the existing municipal building and gym from 94 Main St. within six months of having built its new town offices and recreation facility.
•  The college, within six months of receiving the 94 Main St. property, to construct the new public park at that location.
“This has been reviewed by the college attorney and the town attorney,” Middlebury Town Manager Kathleen Ramsay said of the document. “There has been considerable back-and-forth to come to this agreement.”
Selectboard Chairman Dean George said that college officials have verbally agreed to “sweeten” the deal by promising assistance to help make the new town buildings net-zero certified — that is, endowed with renewable energy systems that meet or exceed the structures’ power needs.
The Middlebury Town Offices & Recreation Facilities Building Committee will hold an energy forum sometime in August in an effort to estimate potential net zero costs, which George indicated could be brought to the college for review.
“We have a verbal commitment of support (from the college) for the town to make the new town structures more than just energy-efficient, but net-zero compliant,” George said.
Meanwhile, the town offices-recreation facilities committee continues to sort out various details of the two projects. For example, plans now call for the recreation center facility to include a 1,000-square-foot, multi-purpose room with a movable wall, instead of a separate “quiet room” and multi-purpose room.
The panel also reviewed the nearby Addison County Transit Resources wood pellet heating system to see if that technology might be transferrable to the new recreation center. And a firm has been hired to perform a hazardous materials inspection of the former, now-vacant Middlebury American Legion building that will be removed and replaced by the new recreation facility.
The committee is working with Green Mountain Power and Mike’s Electric on the potential cost of relocating power lines near the new municipal building site. Officials are looking into the possibility of extending the basement area by around 5 feet to allow for more storage.
The committee will next meet on Aug. 8 at 8 a.m. at the Creek Road recreation center site.
As the project becomes more defined, some residents are urging that the new town office building not create undue light pollution in the downtown. They note that the new structure, as currently designed, will feature a large number of windows that will front the Main Street rotary. Selectboard members said that concern will be addressed in the plans.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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