Ferrisburgh board to decide on contentious truck depot

FERRISBURGH — The clock has started ticking for the Ferrisburgh Zoning Board of Adjustment to make its decision on a proposed trucking depot on Tuppers Crossing that has generated strong neighborhood opposition.
The board has taken testimony four times — one each in December, June, July and on Aug. 2 — on the DeVos family application to move its trucking business off its Greenbush Road farm and onto a lot on Tuppers Crossing, just off Route 7, in Ferrisburgh’s Industrial District.
After conducting a site visit on Wednesday, Aug. 2, and then taking one last round of testimony back in town offices, the board closed its hearing on the proposal and met behind closed doors to begin deciding its fate. The board now has 45 days from Aug. 2 to issue a ruling.
The DeVos family proposal for a “freight and trucking terminal” is a permitted conditional use in the Industrial District. That means, according to Ferrisburgh zoning, the depot “may be permitted only by approval of the Zoning Board after public notice and public hearing to determine whether the proposed use will conform to general and specific standards.”
Generally, zoning boards determine whether conditional uses have an undue adverse impact on an area, and boards may attach conditions to ease a proposal’s impact on a neighborhood.
Plans call for an 8,000-square-foot “barn-like” building, parking lot, truck-washing area, and an aboveground 5,000-gallon fuel tank on a 9-acre lot. That lot lies at the very north end of Ferrisburgh’s southern Industrial District between railroad tracks to the west and Route 7 to the east.
Neighbors and an attorney contend the depot will be unsightly and not conform to what is a residential neighborhood; that the tractor-trailer trucks, which will carry petroleum products but will enter and exit the site empty, will pose fire and safety hazards; that proposed parking is inadequate according to zoning laws for the size of the building; that hours of operation will interfere with the enjoyment of their homes; that a study showed one area where noise will exceed legal limits; and that the project would be “heavy industry,” not “light industry” as allowed by zoning.
The DeVos family, represented at the hearings by former town Selectman John DeVos as well as experts and an attorney, maintains that extensive landscape screening and other amendments to plans, such as a change to the driveway configuration, answer many objections, and that the proposal fits the permitted zoning definition and should be allowed.
At least one neighbor in the Tuppers Crossing area has favored the project, Greenbush Road residents have come forward to say they have had no problems with the trucking business in its existing neighborhood, and the town’s fire chief said he has fewer fire and traffic concerns on the Tuppers Crossing location and its intersection with Route 7 than on the current location of the truck depot on Greenbush Road and its intersection with Route 7.
On Aug. 2, according to Zoning Board of Adjustment Chairwoman Charlene Stavenow, the board got a close look during the site visit at some of the changes to the plan that have been made to address concerns.
Stavenow said the driveway has been moved closer to Route 7, on the easterly side of the building, and from there the firm’s nine trucks will proceed to a lot on the building’s west side and back into parking places. The change will prevent truck lights from glaring directly into a home, she said.
Also, the board and neighbors got a look at where more landscaping would be added to the east and south sides, parallel with Route 7 and along Tuppers Crossing. Stavenow said DeVos has also said he would talk about hours of operation.
“He’s made adjustments to their plan. He’s changed the driveway, and he’s been very conscious of the hours of the workers’ coming into get the trucks and travel. And I think (he) has some flexibility there,” she said.
According to Stavenow, Ferrisburgh Conservation Commission chairmanCraig Heindel also spoke up on Aug. 2, noting the project should comply with new 2017 wetlands rules that came into effect after the application was submitted. Stavenow said on Thursday the zoning board could consider compliance with those rules as a condition of a potential approval.
Stavenow said when the hearing reconvened back in Ferrisburgh’s Route 7 office building and when it was clear no groundbreaking new testimony would be forthcoming the board elected to close the hearing.
She said they will meet again soon, and possibly once more before the 45-day deadline.
“It is a very complicated application, and we want to be able to go over all of the paperwork that has been turned into us. We want to be able to digest every aspect of it, the testimony, every aspect of the application, the neighbors’ input, and just study everything,” Stavenow said, adding, “Everyone has their homework to do. Everyone is going to study one particular aspect of it, and then we’re going to come back together and look at the facts and see how they apply to the rules.”
Those who have followed this proposal and the opposition to it have said they expect an appeal of the decision regardless of zoning board’s decision. Stavenow just said the board told everyone concerned it would be objective and fair.
“Anything has a possibility of being appealed to the Environmental Court. I certainly feel it’s a complicated issue and people feel very strongly about their position,” she said. “So they have to hear our findings of fact and conclusions of law to decide how that affects their position.” 

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