218-unit housing project now under review

MIDDLEBURY’S DEVELOPMENT REVIEW Board has begun its review of preliminary plans for Stonecrop Meadows, a proposed new neighborhood in Middlebury village that could add 218 housing units to the shire town’s dwelling mix. Graphic courtesy of Middlebury planning & zoning office

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury Development Review Board on Monday, Sept. 25, conducted its first review of preliminary plan by Summit Properties to build a 218-unit, mixed-income housing project on 35 acres of Middlebury College-owned land off Seminary Street Extension.

It’s called “Stonecrop Meadows,” and Summit officials are now showing local planners how they hope to site, and phase in, a combination of rental and for-sale homes that would include affordable, “workforce” and market rate options.

Monday’s 3.5-hour meeting was an opportunity for the DRB to listen to Summit’s pitch for Stonecrop, a project that could change substantially before the company submits final plans as soon as early next year. Citizen and DRB input, project financing and site logistics are typically among the factors that prompt changes in major planned unit development applications.

In addition to those presenting on behalf of Summit, several Seminary Street Extension-area neighbors turned out at the Sept. 25 DRB meeting. A handful of neighbors chose to offer comments, with the majority raising concerns about potential stormwater impacts from the development.

The DRB will resume its review of the Stonecrop plans on Oct. 23.

It’s a review that’s to occur in three phases. Phase one, which took place this past March, was a sketch plan review. The project is now in “preliminary plan review,” which Summit COO Zeke Davisson said will likely culminate in a series of directives and suggestions from DRB members on how to make the plan conform to town rules and expectations. This would lead to a final plan review and a decision by the DRB on Stonecrop. 

Davisson and his Summit colleagues have spent this past summer refining Stonecrop plans and seeking state and federal subsidies to drive down the costs for the rental and for-sale housing.

“Since the sketch plan review in March, we’ve secured more than $10 million in subsidy financing for construction,” Davisson said during a recent phone interview.

He noted $2 million of those subsidies are to be plowed into infrastructure for the new village community, with the remaining $8 million for construction of phase 1 of the development — the construction of 45 units of for-sale housing. Davisson said the bulk of those units are in the affordable and workforce housing price range.

Summit’s preliminary plans, among other things, show a total of 218 housing units that would be erected in five phases. Phase one involves a combined total of 45 units contained in 16 duplexes and 29 townhomes. Phase two: 36 multi-family homes. Phase three: a combined 27 units contained in “triplexes,” townhouses and “flats.” Phase four: 48 multifamily units. Phase five: 62 units of senior housing.

Davisson it could be five- to 10 years before Stonecrop is fully phased in. A lot will depend on the required permitting, financing and demand for the units. Demand shouldn’t be an issue, as the Middlebury area, county and entire state currently have a shortage of available housing for all income levels.

“Phase one and two have paths forward; they’re not set, but we have the financing and have identified the design parameters and have basic timeline on how to move forward with those two phases,” Davisson said.

He explained phases three and four will require a renewed search for financing, and he called phase five “wildly speculative,” at this point.

Summit officials currently see phase five as an independent senior living facility.

“The market would have to support that, and at that point, we would be doing a wetland crossing and going back to the state to re-do a lot of the environmental review,” Davisson said. “But (senior housing) needs to be included in our preliminary plan in order to lay out the overall proposed vision.”

Once completed, Stonecrop’s residents are expected to include around 48 school-age children that would need to be absorbed by Mary Hogan Elementary and Middlebury Union Middle and High Schools.

“(Summit) has spoken with the (Addison Central School District) superintendent regarding the impact on district educational services, who indicated it would not pose any stress on enrollment capacity given the significant decline in enrollment over the last 15 years,” the Stonecrop preliminary plan narrative reads.

The developers also claim the new neighborhood would pose “no unreasonable burden on the ability of the town to provide municipal services,” based on conversations with local fire, police, public works and other town officials.

Summit officials also submit that Stonecrop won’t negatively affect the character of the surrounding neighborhood.


“The project is a residential development in a residential zoning district,” reads the project narrative. “The (new) neighborhood is designed as a logical extension of current settlement patterns, including Buttolph Acres to the south, and is intended to create continuity and cohesiveness both within the development and in connection with the surrounding community.”

Here’s how the preliminary plan refers to other aspects of what would be one of the largest planned residential developments in Middlebury’s history:

• Stormwater

“The Project has been designed to treat all stormwater on-site, including the use of low-impact development stormwater treatment features where possible,”

• Parking

“The applicant anticipates having two off-street parking spots available per unit on all lots in Phases 1 and 3. Phases 2 and 4 may not comply with the TND rule of 1 off-street parking per 1-bedroom unit, plus 0.25 off-street parking spaces for each additional bedroom. However, applicant expects those buildings to be of a type that can reasonably be expected to have residents with fewer vehicles, including low-or moderate-income and/or senior housing, for which the TND permits the DRB to reduce parking requirements. In addition, as of July 1, 2023, Vermont State law prohibits municipalities from requiring the development of more than 1 parking space per unit.

In addition to the off-street parking, the project will include the equivalent of approximately 33 unstriped, on-street parking spaces for guests, vendors and residents.

• Traffic

Summit hired the Wall Consulting Group to do a preliminary transportation-impact study. The company has determined Stonecrop would generate “81 new trip ends on an average weekday a.m. peak hour, 99 new trip ends on an average weekday p.m. peak hour, and 1,358 trip ends over the course of an average weekday.

“With 99 p.m. peak hour trips, the estimated new vehicle trip generation associated with the project is more than the 75-trip Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) threshold meriting congestion and capacity analysis. The geographic scope of study receiving 75 peak hour trips includes the intersections of the two site driveways, Valley View Drive, and Washington Street with Seminary Street Extension.

“All analyzed intersections and approaches are expected to operate at an LOS (level of service) B or better in both the AM and p.m. peak hours. Projected vehicle operations are expected to meet the VTrans LOS policy standard. Significant queueing is not expected.”

An LOS “B” suggests “short delays” of 10-15 seconds at affected intersections, including at the five-corner convergence that includes Washington Street and Seminary Street Extension, according to the Wall Consulting Group study.

It should also be noted that Summit will seek waivers for height and lot sizes. Middlebury zoning calls for a minimum lot size is 20,000 square feet and building highest maximum of 55 feet in the town’s R-20 zone.

Summit officials argue that “the inability to design lots under 20,000 square feet “would preclude lots with single, medium- sized structures and thus present a conflict between designing a compact neighborhood and building diverse housing types.” They also noted that one of their proposed buildings in “phase four” and the potential senior independent living facility ion phase 5 could “exceed 55 feet in height depending on roof detail or topography.”

John Flowers is at [email protected].

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