A new Vermont Rail System transfer station proposed for 19-acres west of Harbour Industries along Route 7 is being described by Shelburne Town Manager Joe Colangelo as potentially the single most impactful event that Shelburne has ever seen.
Vermont Rail System plans to move part of its Burlington operations out of the city and into Shelburne. They are asserting federal preemption which means the project is not subject to municipal review. None of the studies, such as traffic impacts or noise, that generally apply to projects will be required. It will not be publically vetted by the Development Review Board.
“We’ve put a lot of time into our planning, our dialog with our citizens, our zoning,” Selectboard member Toni Supple said. “I am sickened by how the town can spend so much time in planning and someone can just come in and ramrod with federal exemptions.”
The proposed facility includes a new rail spur, salt storage facilities, office buildings, fuel tanker and heavy equipment storage. An aboveground storage tank fuel pad and Fleet Fuel island facility is also planned for the land and the fuel island may be opened to the public if the interest is found.
Shelburne officials have expressed concern regarding potential traffic, environmental, public safety and noise impacts on the town from the project. Selectboard member Colleen Parker said, “It’s going to happen fast, and we’re going to be left picking up the pieces.”
The Selectboard does not see any silver lining for Shelburne with the Vermont Rail System developments and President of Vermont Railways David Wulfson, of Shelburne, agreed at the Jan. 12 Selectboard meeting that there is no benefit that the town will derive from the project.
Selectboard Chair Gary von Stange said there will be a substantial increase in truck activity through the center of town. Existing traffic problems in town will be magnified, particularly during snow events. Trucks have 102-decibel back-up alarms, louder than Shelburne Museum concerts, Von Stange said.
Shelburne Communty School school board member Dave Connery expressed concern about students who walk or bike to school. With the increase in large truck traffic, he worries about the safety of schoolchildren.
“I think we need a lot more information, and information in terms of where they are with wetlands,” Shelburne Representative Joan Lenes said.
Town officials and Lenes have said they will continue to explore their options. “It’s on the table, so we investigate all the options and see where it stands,” Lenes said.
Shelburne Town Manager Joe Colangelo said the town owns a recreational trail easement over the parcel recently purchased by Vermont Rail System. “The town will need to consider its property interest,” he said.
Colangelo, Planning and Zoning Director Dean Pierce and Town Attorney Claudine Safar represented the Town of Shelburne at a hearing before the Act 250 Board regarding a request to abandon two Act 250 permits on land owned by the Town of Shelburne on Jan. 11. The request to abandon the permits was made by Northern Vermont Financial Corp at the time they owned the parcel and is now owned by Vermont Rail System. The town is opposing the abandonment of the Act 250 permits, Colangelo said.
Peter Keibel of the Natural Resources Board said a hearing recess order on that will be issued soon.
The Selectboard is seeking to ensure that the public is well notified about the project and they are encouraging public comments. Call Colangelo at (802) 985-5111 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.