Shelburne fire/rescue station project gets rolling

LISA SCAGLIOTTI
Correspondent

The committee charged with pursuing a public-private partnership to build a new Shelburne fire and rescue station got down to work this week mapping actions to take through the end of the year.

At a May 6 meeting, the committee heard from Joe Weith, a former South Burlington planning and zoning director and currently a senior project manager from White and Burke Real Estate Investment. His firm is working with the owners of Healthy Living Market, the town’s partner in the real estate deal that aims to put a new market alongside a new fire and rescue station on Longmeadow Drive. The 4.8-acre site for the project is along Shelburne Road in the Rice Lumber commercial development.

Shelburne voters in March approved spending $25,000 to be combined with an identical sum from Shelburne Rescue funds to vet the site for its development potential and to start the permitting process. 

The committee is led by Town Manager Lee Krohn. Other members in attendance Monday were Rescue Chief Jacob Leopold and Devin Major from Shelburne Volunteer Fire Department, as well as community members Chris Boyd, Doug Merrill and Catherine Collette.

White laid out a schedule for permit applications to both the town Development Review Board and the District 4 Environmental Commission. He said the first step for Healthy Living’s owners is to bring on board a developer that will see their part of the project through. Company officials are in discussions with several potential candidates now, he said, and should make a choice soon.

The developer for Healthy Living would actually purchase the market’s share of the commercial building lot and would own the new building, leasing it to the retailer long-term, White explained.

Under the agreement with the town, Shelburne officials will have some say in the market’s choice because the developer will shepherd the project through the initial site design and permitting phase, Krohn explained. The town would hire its own developer, however, to handle project details for the new fire and rescue project once it reaches that phase, he said.

White’s schedule aims to apply to the town for site plan review by the end of this month, starting the local permitting process that he estimated would run through the end of the year. The goal for starting the state Act 250 process would be to submit that application by mid-November, White said.

Along the way, Rice Lumber owners, who have state and town permits in place for the entire development, may also want to look to amend their plans to adjust some boundaries of the commercial lots along Route 7, White told the group.

“There’s a lot of work to do,” he said.

The aim is to be far enough along for the Shelburne Selectboard to be able to decide by January whether to put a question on the March Town Meeting ballot asking voters to approve purchasing the town’s portion of the property for the negotiated price of $650,000.

As the Healthy Living team prepares site plans for permit review, fire and rescue officials are discussing features they would like to include in the new facility.

Leopold noted that the spot has long been a desirable location for Shelburne’s emergency services because of its easy access to U.S. Route 7 with a traffic light. He admitted that the site has some challenges, especially the rock ledge along the west side.

Project designers will need to carefully craft a footprint that allows enough room for emergency vehicles and equipment along with administrative, training and living space, while accommodating ample parking and outdoor site space for some activity.

For design purposes now, the Williston fire station is the working template.

“The basic premise for fire and rescue has been if we start with the footprint of the current Williston fire station, we would have sufficient space with some minor changes to provide the services with a facility that’s going to last easily 30 to 50 years,” Leopold said.

Opened in 2007, Williston’s two-story fire station sits about a half mile east of Taft Corners along U.S. Route 2. It measures approximately 26,000 square feet, according to Capt. Tim Gerry reached there this week. 

As they consider interior building features, fire and rescue members have plans to visit other new combined fire-rescue stations, including stations in Middlebury, South Hero, Stowe and at the University of Vermont, Leopold said.

The new Shelburne station would replace current separate fire and rescue headquarters – the fire station beside the town offices, library and ballfields in Shelburne village, and the rescue station on Turtle Lane off Harbor Road. Town officials have not begun to discuss future uses of those facilities yet.

Committee members discussed their role in the process. Krohn said the goal is for the committee to make a recommendation to the selectboard by the end of the year regarding the land purchase. He noted that committee meetings would be public with agendas and minutes posted. 

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