From 4 to 48 units: CLS Holdings project plan grows; residents express concerns over traffic, wildlife

LISA SCAGLIOTTI
Correspondent

The Shelburne Development Review Board recently got its first look at expanded plans to construct 12 buildings with a total of 48 housing units near the new Rice Lumber development along Route 7 north of Shelburne village.

The new proposal by CLS Holdings replaces initial plans for just four single-family homes along the western edge of the 46-acre mixed-use development. The residential lots sit on the highest part of the site overlooking the LaPlatte River with views to Lake Champlain.

At its meeting Oct. 2, the board reviewed site drawings and discussed details with project engineer Ben Heath of Donald L. Hamlin Consulting Engineers of Essex.

The request before the board asks to amend the local permit for the project to allow for the larger residential development on 19 acres, 11 of which were to remain undeveloped for conservation.

The board also is reviewing separate requests to alter boundary lines of other commercial lots in the development as well as new plans for a grocery store and fire-rescue station on one of the lots.

Heath summed up by saying there is “a lot of action” on new projects for the development.

“It’s paramount that we work together with the other developers to ensure that there is some kind of continuity between these projects,” he said.

The site for the multi-family residential project is part of the 46-acre Planned Unit Development by Rice Lumber that includes the new headquarters of the longtime building supply company that opened last year.

The site includes four other commercial lots that front along Shelburne Road. The lot on the northeast corner of Route 7 and Longmeadow Drive is where the town and Healthy Living Market are planning to develop a new grocery store and a new fire and rescue station.

Those plans have received sketch plan review by the development review board. Town officials are aiming to decide whether to put the land purchase for the new station to a town vote in 2020.

Town Manager Lee Krohn said that the team planning that project is aware of the revised residential proposal, “But we haven’t heard any concerns about impacts it may have on the fire-rescue or Healthy Living project.”

The Development Review Board’s focus last week was to consider what the overall impacts may be with the twelve-fold increase in housing units. The board paid particular attention to traffic details and also discussed the density of the development adjacent to a conservation area.

Heath explained that the proposed design would have vehicles from the new neighborhood exit onto Route 7 using Shagbark Lane, which is just north of the jug handle intersection with Webster Road. Traffic would only be able to turn right to head south. Northbound vehicles would need to use the jug handle, he noted.

Development Review Board Coordinator Ravi Venkataraman said his recommendation would be for the new neighborhood’s access to be a new access road that would connect with Longmeadow Drive, which has a traffic light with Route 7 allowing vehicles to enter and exit both north- and southbound.

Heath said designers believe the Shagbark intersection is adequate. He also noted that future development of the commercial lots along Route 7 would eventually allow traffic to get to Longmeadow Drive.

Venkataraman confirmed that traffic from the commercial lots would be required to use Longmeadow Drive for access.

Board members voiced concerns over whether the traffic circulation envisioned by the original permit would be adequate.

“We signed off on a traffic plan for a PUD with four houses, not 48,” said board member John Day. “Someone has to convince me that the existing plan is sufficient for 48. My gut is not comfortable with that.”

Residents’ concerns

The board heard from two residents from the residential neighborhood just north of the project site.

Bruce Whitbeck brought up the number of units, the traffic they would generate and the impact on wildlife. He said the wooded area alongside the development is known for its bobcat, deer and coyotes.

Gail Nilsson agreed and pointed out the steep slope along the western edge of the Rice development where the homes are proposed. Four homes nearby seemed reasonable, she said, but 48 “seems wrong.”

“I just feel this is not the place,” she said, noting that plans to redevelop the former Yankee Doodle Motel site nearby is a good use for that property. “I understand there’s a need for housing. It just seems like they’ve tried to sneak this in at the last minute.”

Other accommodations for the larger development will be needed. For example, initial plans for the residential lots called for wells and septic but the new plan would require connections to the municipal water and sewer systems.

Nilsson also questioned how the housing density and open-space calculations were made. Venkataraman confirmed that the regulations would allow up to 55 units for the site in question. 

The board narrowly closed its sketch plan review of the project. Only four members were present for the item and David Hillman initially voted against closing the review.

“I need more information,” he said. “I think there’s more to this. There’s something more wholistic to this … going from something that was approved with four units and now we’re looking at 48.”

The board needed four votes to pass the item. Hillman went along once the motion to end the hearing included a direction to the applicant to address the big-picture concerns he raised. The board also required the applicant to do a traffic study before it goes to the next phase of permitting review.

No further hearings on the project are scheduled yet.

Senior housing at former motel site

The other large residential project the board discussed last week is the proposal from developer David Shenk for the 3.3-acre former Yankee Doodle Motel site along Shelburne Road at Winter Haven Road.

The project received its final approval for revised plans that reduced the number of units from 63 to 48 contained in two new buildings rather than three as originally proposed.

Shenk explained the changes to the board, noting that in working on state permitting, the southwest corner of the property was flagged as a possible Class 2 wetland, which would need protection.

“The only way to determine that was to wait until spring,” he said. “We decided we can treat it as a Class 2 wetland and avoid it.”

A building with 15 units was deleted from the design, leaving two buildings with 24 units each. All of the one- and two-bedroom units would be marketed to tenants age 55 and older, he said.

The project will have most of its parking underground and about a half-acre of the site designated as a green space for a possible community garden.

In addition, Shenk has been working with residents in the adjacent neighborhood with whom the new project will share its road access. Shenk’s plans call for paving the road and adding a sidewalk along it on his property.

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