Editor's note: This story was updated on Saturday, April 23, 2016 at 3:45 p.m. to include a comment from Shires Housing Executive Director Stephanie Lane.
BENNINGTON >> The Act 250 Commission refrained from granting approval to a controversial housing project because the current land owner, who intended to build more condominiums, faces violations for not complying with conditions of a previously issued permit.
The Monument View Apartments would have otherwise received a land use permit because the commission found it complies with Act 250, according to a March 30 order by the state-level permitting entity. But the state's Natural Resource Board (NRB) alleges the company behind Apple Ridge Condominiums, which owns the cleared land, did not comply with conditions of an Act 250 permit issued a decade ago.
"Accordingly, issuance of the permit is stayed until such time as the violations are corrected or a clear schedule for compliance is established with the NRB through an Assurance Of discontinuance," states the commission's order.
Gordon P. Black, a representative for Appleridge, said the developer "has been actively working with the state to bring the project into full compliance." He added that "none of the alleged deficiencies are issues that have ever been raised by residents of the Apple Ridge Condominiums, nor any office of the town of Bennington."
NRB General Counsel Greg Boulbol confirmed the agency opened an investigation into the developer about a year ago and said it's a pending case. Citing ongoing negotiations between the agency and the developer, he declined to go into detail.
A $5.5 million project with 24 units across seven buildings, the Monument View Apartments got approval from the town's Development Review Board — which required a detailed blasting plan, among other conditions — in November 2014.
Shires Housing, a private nonprofit housing corporation, has intended to purchase a 2.7 acre vacant lot off Eden Way between South and Silver streets from Apple Ridge Development once permitting is completed.
Appleridge Development, one of local developer Jack Appleman's ventures, received Act 250 approval for 53 condominiums in 2005, as well as two units in a historic home within the South Street Historic District. In 2006, the permit was amended to 42 duplexes. Of those, only 10 were ever completed on the roughly four acres of woods that was clear cut, although some infrastructure was installed.
In a March 29 affidavit, NRB Enforcement Officer Aaron J. Brondvke wrote Appleridge Development did not complete renovations on the historic home and construction of the six new duplex buildings as required under the "Findings of Fact" Act 250 issued in 2005. He wrote the developer failed to complete construction of a stockade fence; added an exterior pre-cast concrete chimney to the historic building in conflict with the U.S. Department of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation of Historic Properties; and failed to cover the new duplex buildings' exteriors with wood clapboard and trim.
Shires' project has generated much opposition from community members who say it will negatively effect the neighborhood, community, tax base and school system.
But proponents, including Shires representatives, have argued it would not impact the neighborhood and stressed a need for quality affordable housing. The target income range was said to be between $25,000 and $36,000 per year, based on federal poverty levels. Shires Housing has said it does criminal background and credit checks on its tenants and enforces its rules.
"Shires is looking forward to seeing this issue resolved so that we may move this important project forward," Shires Executive Director Stephanie Lane said in an email Saturday.
Contact Edward Damon at 413-770-6979