MANCHESTER -- The District 8 Environmental Commission conducted an Act 250 hearing May 2 to review plans for a new building to be constructed on the site of the former Sirloin Saloon restaurant on Depot Street.
The plans were presented by Frank Parent and Craig Hunter, from Long Trail Engineering and Manchester Design Outlets. Their proposal included demolishing the existing 13,500-square-foot building and constructing the new 19,450-square-foot, mixed-use building, which they intend to call the Marble Mill, with outdoor patio areas. During the presentation, each facet of the building was applied to the 10 criteria of the Act 250 guidelines.
The building has been approved to allow up to 1,800 square feet for restaurants, and the rest for retail. The building will also connect to the Kenneth Cole building by means of a sloped walkway, coming down the embankment to the upper patio area. "It will be very pedestrian friendly," said Hunter.
During the presentation, the commission heard comments from Gene Bongartz and Jenny Foster from Manchester Woodcraft, as well as from James Sparkman, speaking on behalf of Nancy Boardman and Joan Shaw, two adjoiners to the property.
Bongartz and Foster mainly had concerns about the parking between the building and their business.
Hunter said that there will be 31 spaces in the upper lot, next to the Kenneth Cole building, nine pre-existing spots already on their property, and there will be 35 spaces behind the building.
They have also generated a unique arrangement with Friends of the Sun, who requested eight of their pre- existing parking spaces be exclusively reserved for their customers, with adequate signage, and that the rest be shared. The Marble Mill will be permitted 30 spaces during the day, but 66 in the evening.
Later in the meeting, Sparkman questioned if the building would affect traffic in and around the property, in regards to Act 250 criteria number five.
"There should have been a traffic study," he said. "All you had is a testimony from the applicant... but I don’t think they’ve given you credible information on the matter."
In response, Parent pointed out that the town of Manchester did not deem it necessary to do a traffic study.
"We’re not changing access to the property," said Parent. "...we’re not changing the interior circulation... there is sufficient room for our tractor trailers to get in, back up, make their deliveries and get out."
"[A traffic study] has never been an absolute requirement," said Planning Director Lee Krohn in a later interview. "It is on a case-by-case basis. We considered it, but we did not believe it would have been useful, necessary or warranted."
Krohn explained that the bylaws had been changed to accommodate businesses that wanted do exactly what the town wanted to see happen: bring people to the downtown area. In addition to parking and traffic, the parties questioned what would be done if, during the demolition, an important artifact from the former properties was to be found.
"The contractor is aware that if he should find anything... to use it as a feature in the new building," said Parent. "If there is something, we’ll flag it. If not, we’ll keep going."
Hunter and Parent both explained that they hadn’t anticipated needing someone on-site at all times to watch the digging process, but that in between removing the old building and digging for the new building they would have a state archeologist on hand.
On Monday, the commission released their recess notes from the hearing. They require, from the applicants, six pieces of information to be sent to them, as well as to the parties at the hearing. These documents include a stormwater discharge permit, as well as a construction general permit, from the Water Quality Division of the Agency of Natural Resources.
The commission would also like the applicants to directly address the idea of bringing a member of the Manchester Historical Society to view the site after demolition is complete, provide information regarding potential tenants’ usage of energy efficient lighting and HVAC systems, and altering the exchange of parking spaces between Manchester Woodcraft. These documents must be submitted by June 2, and all parties will then have 10 days after that to submit any rebuttals.