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City youth club seeks zoning OK for new headquarters

VERGENNES — The Boys & Girls Club of Greater Vergennes is continuing to work toward a potential purchase of a home at 75 Main St. as a new headquarters, in seeking both a city permit and funds for the project.
On Oct. 6, about two dozen people attended a Vergennes Development Review Board hearing on the proposed change of the property from a single-family home to a community center.
Zoning allows community centers in that stretch of Main Street, but only with conditions, said City Manager and Zoning Administrator Mel Hawley.
Most people at the hearing backed the club, which has operated out of rented converted School Street storefronts in recent years. The new site would be much closer to Vergennes Union High School and can be accessed from VUHS via sidewalk without crossing streets.
“The room was full of Boys & Girls Club supporters,” Hawley said.
But not all favored the proposal, he said. The property is two homes up from the John Graham Shelter, and the neighbor in between, Janet Mazza, expressed what Hawley called serious concerns.
“Janet has safety concerns and impact concerns,” Hawley said.
Club Executive Director Mike Reiderer acknowledged Mazza’s worries and pledged to work with her.
“One neighbor in particular is concerned about being sandwiched between two nonprofit organizations,” Reiderer said.
Another neighbor, Rose Plankey, submitted a letter expressing concerns about children’s safety because of “a significant increase in traffic during the hours that the children will be walking to the house and also when they will be picked up.” Plankey also wondered if there was enough on-site parking for those picking up children, and wondered about noise from the property and the possibility that club members might use her property as a shortcut to 75 Main St.
The DRB extended the hearing until Nov. 3 because of a problem with the site plan the club submitted. A site visit before the hearing uncovered that the home was 16 feet closer to a boundary than believed, Hawley said.
“We quickly came to the conclusion that the site plan that was filed was flawed,” he said.
Hawley said the DRB usually continues hearings rather than denies permits when similar problems with applications are uncovered.
“We would typically not force people to start over,” he said.
The DRB set a deadline for this Friday for the club to file a new site plan. Reiderer said on Tuesday that the club’s architect had completed that task, although he had yet not seen the document.
One proposal issue is parking. Like many city projects, the club’s plan will require a parking waiver on what Hawley said is a lot a little bigger than a quarter-acre.
Hawley said the club could make a good argument that it will not require as many parking places as many entities.
“You don’t need to provide parking for 13-year-old kids,” he said.
The other question for the club is financial. In August, Reiderer estimated that buying the home and making upgrades to make it suitable for club use would cost about $350,000.
The club has an anonymous $100,000 donation in hand to help fund the purchase, and Reiderer said the organization has already raised $25,000 in grant commitments for the project.
Currently, he said the club is paying $1,700 a month plus roughly another $4,000 a year in utilities for its School Street home.
Ideally, Reiderer said, fundraising would go well enough to allow the club to not only buy the property, but also avoid a mortgage.
“We’d at least like to be able to reach the purchase price … by November or December,” he said. “That looks promising. The real question is what comes after that.”
When the zoning question is settled, then that question will come to the forefront.
“We haven’t really gotten into a campaign,” Reiderer said. “The fundraising still has a long way to go.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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