By MADELINE HUGHES
The biggest grocery store between South Burlington and Vergennes could be coming to Route 7 in Shelburne alongside a brand new fire station.
Shelburne’s Selectboard announced Tuesday night that the town is looking to partner with Healthy Living Market and Café for a real estate development that would include a new market and a new fire and rescue station at the corner of Longmeadow Drive, on a parcel currently owned by Rice Lumber.
The board will put the question of whether to proceed with the Selectboard’s negotiated terms for the deal on the Town Meeting Day ballot that voters will consider March 5.
“This site could not be better for us,” said Fire Chief Jerry Ouimet. “It meets our needs.”
By agreeing to enter into a purchase agreement, the town will further vet the property for its capacity to hold a combined fire and rescue station and begin the permitting process.
Town officials explained that sharing this venture with Healthy Living would save money. The grocer would purchase the entire 4.8-acre parcel and then subdivide it for the two uses.
Shelburne voters would be asked in 2020 to spend $650,000 to purchase the portion of the site for the fire station from Healthy Living.
The grocery store plans to get permits over the next year and break ground in 2020.
The central location on Route 7 in Shelburne at an existing traffic light is what the fire and rescue departments determined they needed in an early 2000s study.
The announcement comes after nearly two months of negotiations between the Selectboard and Healthy Living. The South Burlington-based grocery store approached the town after putting an option on one of Rice Lumber’s lots.
Construction has been under way for more than a year to build a new Rice Lumber facility south of its longtime location on Shelburne Road. A few old Rice Lumber buildings are currently on the 4.8 acres Healthy Living hopes to acquire and they would be torn down, officials said.
The proposed 18,000 square-foot grocery store would be the largest along Route 7 between South Burlington and Vergennes. That is just over half the size of the company’s 34,000 square-foot South Burlington store on Dorset Street, and slightly larger than the 13,500 square-foot Shelburne Supermarket.
Healthy Living CEO Eli Lesser-Goldsmith attended Tuesday’s meeting.
“We would love to join this community, and this is a way to do it,” he told the audience and board. He said his company hopes the spot will be more convenient for its customers who live nearby and to the south in Charlotte, Hinesburg and Ferrisburgh.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Selectboard Vice Chair Jaime Heins said the town choosing the site for a new municipal building and partnering with the grocery store could help “revitalize the corridor” along the busy highway.
“It’s exciting to bring vibrancy to that part of Shelburne,” he said. “And we hope once we are there, other like-minded services pop up as well.”
The Shelburne store will be Healthy Living’s third location. The company has another store in Saratoga Springs, N.Y..
Lesser-Goldsmith brought senior project manager Joe Weith from White and Burke Real Estate Investment to help explain where Healthy Living was in the development process.
“We’ve done some due diligence looking into Act 250 permits and hope to get going as soon as it’s approved on Town Meeting Day,” Weith said.
On the ballot
The question on the Town Meeting Day ballot asks Shelburne voters whether to enter into a sales agreement with Healthy Living, spending $50,000 for project analysis, subdivision and permitting. It proposes a future expenditure of up to $650,000 that would be put to another town vote.
That $50,000 would come from two sources: the general fund, which is approved by voters and raised by taxes, and the ambulance fund that is sourced from the department’s billings.
Town Manager Lee Krohn explained that the opportunity came quickly to the town.
“For a number of years there have been a discussion about a conjoined rescue and fire center, and there have been a number of cites considered over time. Suddenly an opportunity presented itself” for the Healthy Living project, Krohn said.
“Town meeting 2020 we will consider buying it. Someday another bond vote we could have a station. It’s a three-stage process. This (current) step is whether to approve to do the investigation to see if it’s a suitable site,” he said. “We are not committing ourselves to further expenditures at this time, just possibly putting it on the ballot to be approved at a future town meeting.”
Board members seemed excited about the opportunity, but keenly aware of the financial challenges facing taxpayers such as paying for the Town Center Pierson Library project and new technology for all of the emergency response departments. The police department budgeted a $15,000 investment in non-lethal equipment for FY20. Fire and rescue have applied for a federal grant to upgrade all the aging radio and communications equipment, which will hopefully be funded, Krohn said.
“It will be up to the town to decide to do this, or not,” said board Chair Jerry Storey.
Selectboard members also agreed that there should be an overall look at future maintenance and facility needs to help inform voters of future expenses as they weigh this new proposal.
“The consensus of the board is that in the next six months, there will be a comprehensive review and analysis of what are the maintenance needs, development needs and what are our potential expenditures are long-term,” Selectboard member Dr. Josh Dein said.
Healthy Living and Fire Department representatives said they will hold an informational meeting about the project proposal before the March vote.
If all ballot items are approved – the general fund budget, a $35,000 allocation for the open space fund and the $50,000 for the Healthy Living deal – taxpayers will see a 5.31 percent increase in taxes for fiscal year 2020. Without the land deal, the increase would have been under 5 percent.
That would put the municipal tax rate at $442 for every $100,000 of assessed property value.
• The Selectboard finalized a contract with Champlain Valley School District for a school resource officer. The Police Department has said its candidate is ready to hire. The new officer would be in the schools this school year.
• The Selectboard also approved a contract with VT Transco and Vermont Electric Power Company requiring the companies to repair any damage that may be caused to Harbor Road from equipment they use there.