Developer proposes 14-unit development in Vergennes; all homes to be energy efficient

VERGENNES — The developer whose proposal for a six-unit energy-efficient Planned Unit Development (PUD) on Green Street was in July denied by the Vergennes Development Review Board now has his eye on a 14-unit PUD on a 7.43-acre Comfort Hill parcel in the Little City.
The DRB will first review Scott Hardy’s proposal to subdivide the 7.43 acres he owns on Comfort Hill into four lots, starting with a Nov. 6 public hearing. Hardy, a New Haven resident, bought the land, on the right just past High Street, for $195,000 from the state of Vermont on Sept. 1 after agreeing to purchase it in mid-2016.
If that subdivision passes muster — and City Manager and Zoning Administrator Mel Hawley said last week it meets all lot size and frontage requirements — then Hardy will begin to plan in earnest for a PUD on the southerly and largest of the four new lots, a 5.9-acre parcel. Hardy believes the project could hit the market next summer if all goes well.
“I couldn’t plan a PUD on Comfort Hill until I have a subdivision approved,” said Hardy, who intends to sell the other three lots as sites for single-family homes. “And we will look at a 14-unit PUD on that parcel.”
Hawley said the 5.9-acre lot — which is zoned High Density Residential and served by nearby city water and sewer lines — is large enough for 14, or even 15, homes in a PUD. PUDs allow homes to be clustered on larger lots, typically served by a shared drive and utilities, with open land preserved.
Hardy said his plans would in part follow the template he used for the “Fisher Flower Farm” proposal on Green Street that the DRB denied because of inadequate parking and landscaping, failure of the homes to be sufficiently clustered, and placement of a shared garage too prominently at the front of the lot.
With provisions to address those shortcomings, Hardy said he would retain other features, including using “net-zero,” pre-built VerMod homes that are energy efficient and will be offered with features like solar arrays and cold-climate heat pumps. On the wooded Comfort Hill site he is leaning toward three-bedroom VerMod homes, which will still be compact.
“The idea with the PUD is to do a net-zero neighborhood, so all the houses would be high-performance and net-zero,” he said.
Hardy said the site is actually closer to downtown — 0.4 miles — than the 1.86-acre Green Street site he still owns, while retaining a rural feel.
“You go up to the top of Comfort Hill and it’s like living in the countryside, but it’s actually within walking distance of downtown,” he said.
Hardy also still has plans for his property on Green Street, although they are not fully clear. On Sept. 11, when the DRB also reviewed Hardy’s preliminary Comfort Hill subdivision sketch plan and discussed his PUD plans, the board also directed Hawley “to draft an affirmative decision” allowing Hardy to subdivide 186 Green St. into two lots.
One half contains the former home of the Fisher Flower Farm business, a building that Hardy will eventually remove and replace with a project to be determined, while he said the other half will be marketed, probably soon, as a site for either a one- or two-family home, which he could possibly build.
“One of the lots will be on the market for either a single family home or a duplex,” Hardy wrote in an email. “The other lot, which contains the old Flower Farm building, is being explored for its best use and economic vitality.” 
Overall, Hardy said he remains convinced that Vergennes is marketable because of its walkability, thriving downtown, vibrant restaurant and arts scenes, and proximity to Chittenden County. 
“A lot of people are saying Vergennes is really up and coming,” Hardy said. “It’s a livable community, an easy commute to Burlington.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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