For 79 years, a lumberyard has anchored the southwest end of Shelburne Road’s busy commercial corridor just north of Shelburne Village.
It’s no surprise then that when ground was broken recently at Rice Lumber, people noticed. Questions about trees being felled and blasting popped up on Front Porch Forum. Even the Selectboard last week said they might ask Rice owners to stop in to talk about their plans.
David Carroll, one of three brothers who own the longtime building-supply company, shrugs it off. “It’s change,” he said. “It’s needed.”
Next year will mark the 80th anniversary of the business run by two local families – first the Rice family and today the Carrolls.
“Shelburne Road was a dirt road out front when it started in the 1930s,” Carroll remarked.
So, what’s in store for the high-profile tract?
For starters, the Rice business is moving just a short distance to the south of its current location. The trees recently cleared and earthwork are prep for the section of the 46-acre property where the new building-supply center will be constructed.
Carroll said the plan is to replace the current structures with a layout that will keep retail customers, wholesale shipments, and Rice delivery trucks separate.
“Right now we have customers, tractor-trailers, forklifts, all moving around in the same area,” he said. “It’s busy. It was designed in the 1930s. It doesn’t really work well today.”
The new main building will be 10,000 square feet and the areas for loading and unloading will all be under cover outdoors. Canopies for drive-through customers will protect loads from the weather and save snow-removal time in winter, Carroll explained.
The new Rice Lumber retail and warehouse facility will occupy two of the development’s six commercial lots. Once the existing old facility is torn down, four more commercial lots will be available for sale and new businesses, he said. The town Development Review Board will examine plans for new development on those lots, according to planning and zoning officials.
On the western edge of the property, four residential lots will be available for new homes to be built. In between, Carroll said, plans call for keeping a substantial area of trees to divide the commercial and residential sections.
“Whoever buys those lots won’t want to look at Route 7,” he said. “The residential lots’ focus will be in the opposite direction.”
From the hill looking west are scenic views of Shelburne Bay, Shelburne Farms, the LaPlatte River, and Lake Champlain beyond.
The development has been in the permitting process for awhile. In his weekly online report to the community, Town Manager Joe Colangelo included a summary of the approval process the project has navigated over the past five years.
The project has received multiple permits from the town as well as state land-use approval under Act 250 and review by the Vermont Agency of Transportation regarding its access from U.S. Route 7.
The state reviewed and approved details in the project plans covering erosion prevention and sediment control, plantings, and the blasting protocol.
The final building permits for Rice were granted in July and September, at which time site work began.
Carroll said the company hopes to complete construction on its new facility by fall 2018. Before it can open, Rice will need to complete sidewalk improvements and landscaping as outlined in its permitting conditions.