Neighbors question truck depot

FERRISBURGH — The proposed in-town move of Ferrisburgh trucking firm J.A. DeVos and Sons Inc. to Tuppers Crossing drew fire at a Dec. 7 Board of Zoning Adjustment hearing from some area residents, who said it was a poor fit for the neighborhood.
J.A. DeVos and Sons Inc., owned in part by former Ferrisburgh Selectman John DeVos Jr., is planning to move from the north end of town to a 9-acre parcel on Tuppers Crossing, a half-mile road that runs west from Route 7 to Botsford Road about a half-mile north of Vergennes.
DeVos defended his proposal at the hearing, which will re-open on Feb. 1, saying, according to minutes, that the business has generated no complaints in 35 years from neighbors of its current Greenbush Road location, where in August it was operating eight tractor-trailer units.
The trucking company has for more than a decade been sharing space there with the other DeVos family business, organic dairy producer Kimball Brook Farm.
DeVos told the Independent in August that two of his three sons want to move the trucking business to Tuppers Crossing on a parcel that is now largely rural, but is next to railroad tracks and is zoned industrial.
They seek to build a fenced facility with an 8,000-square-foot commercial building, an aboveground fuel tank, parking and entry on the south and west sides, and an outdoor truck-wash area for 30 trucks per week with runoff on the north side of the building. Per zoning board minutes, “The interior of the building would be used for changing tires, oil changes, and other light repair work, with storage for tools and truck parts, an office area and bathroom facilities.”
Their application includes provisions for landscape screening on the east and west sides, and the project would have the “same runoff management system in use at the Ferrisburgh town garage,” according to minutes.
Per minutes, DeVos said the trucks would be empty when leaving and arriving and would not weigh more than about 26,000 pounds.
The 9 acres in question lies in Ferrisburgh’s Industrial District zone, and “Freight and trucking terminal” is listed as a permitted conditional use. That designations means the use is allowed if approved by the Ferrisburgh Zoning Board of Adjustment, which may attach conditions after a public process.
Per Ferrisburgh zoning, in granting a conditional use permit the zoning board must consider whether a proposal adversely affects the “character of the area,” and the board may attach conditions to minimize a proposal’s impact.
And some neighbors told the zoning board on Dec. 7 that the trucking facility would have a negative impact on property values and the character of the area.
Residents David Pierson and Jane Melrose, who live at the intersection of Tuppers Crossing and Botsford Road, expressed those opinions at the meeting, according to minutes, and in an email to the Independent.
“This trucking facility does not seem a good fit in this place for many reasons. We would like to stop the project totally,” they wrote in an email that also cited the “environmental impact of trucks carrying gasoline, propane and hazardous waste.”
Pierson and Melrose, like fellow neighborhood residents Ken Villeneuve and Aubrey Choquette, have hired an attorney. Attorney Liam Murphy spoke on Pierson and Melrose’s behalf on Dec. 7, and attorney James Dumont spoke for Villeneuve and Choquette.
Murphy called the application “skinny,” according to minutes: He said the landscaping proposed was inadequate, suggesting “large berms with plantings to the east and west to mitigate noise issues and damage to the view from Route 7 and Botsford Road.”
Murphy also said the area is “mostly rural residential,” and the project would harm its character, and he requested a noise study and a limit on hours of operation.
Choquette said the project was “incompatible with the surrounding area” and property values would be harmed, according to minutes, and that drawings appeared “to show a building higher than the maximum of 35 feet, and that light and glare from the project would be a constant problem,”
As did Murphy, per the minutes Choquette criticized extensive site work done this past summer before DeVos applied for a permit. Choquette cited noise, and said landscaping was inadequate because “trees that appear on the plan would be planted well below the level of the building site, and would do little to screen the building from Route 7.” 
Dumont, per the minutes, also said “the application did not address many issues required to grant a conditional use permit, such as the increased truck traffic turning off Route 7 onto Tuppers Crossing, the nearby railroad grade crossing, and the blind uphill approach to the property from the west.”
Not all neighbors objected. Stephen Warner, who lives across the road from the project, said he had not objection. Rob Stearns, speaking on behalf of his mother, who owns two homes west of the property, said he did not object to the proposal but would like to see better screening.
Last week, DeVos told the Independent he believed he could respond to neighbors’ concerns.
“We’ll deal with every one of them. It’s in the works now,” he said. “We have no problem with the bushes and the berms and all that stuff.”
One, he said, was inaccurate: “Our building will not be over 35 feet in height.”
Others he questioned as valid, including the limits on hours of operation.
“I can go to the Mobil station there and my car can get fueled 24 hours a day,” DeVos said. “Why should I be told not to do it when the new COCO station there can do it?”
DeVos also said the noise that one neighbor stated his trucks made, 80 to 90 decibels, was “not accurate,” but that he was addressing the noise issue.
“I’m also having a sound study done. I’ve got partial information on that already from the federal government,” DeVos said.
DeVos, who will bring his own attorney to the Feb. 1 meeting, also took issue with the suggestion hazardous waste would be brought to Tuppers Crossing.
“We don’t haul hazardous waste. We haul petroleum. They leave the yard empty. They come back empty,” he said.
The zoning board asked DeVos to address neighbors’ concerns in a updated application at the next meeting, and according to minutes Chairwoman Charlene Stavenow suggested DeVos “take them very seriously.”
Last week, Stavenow told the Independent that project neighbors raised valid issues that required a detailed response.
“These issues are critical enough that the applicant really has to hear what his neighbors have to say and how they feel about it and how he might rearrange and how he might rethink his permit application in terms of how to make his neighbors more comfortable,” Stavenow said. “That’s all part of zoning. Character of the area is one of the most major factors.”
The zoning board will also make a site visit, and the work done this past summer could become an issue, she said, with a redo of some of the work a possible condition of a potential approval. 
“He disturbed a lot of property. He took it upon himself to do it without the benefit of a permit or a hearing,” Stavenow said. “When we do a site visit on this property we might not approve at all how he did it.”
Stavenow said the proposal would get careful scrutiny.
“It’s certainly going to be a very serious discussion on that application,” she said.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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