WILMINGTON — Before setting a hearing date to review the Hermitage Club's master plan application, the District Environmental Commission wants more details.
"The commission and the parties I spoke to believe that to begin work on the only criteria requested will make for a disjointed review," District 2 Environmental Commission Vice Chairwoman Leslie Hanafin wrote in a pre-conference report regarding the project. "It would create a substantial hardship for reviewers to remember all the complex and multifaceted aspects of the project if the process is bifurcated and takes place over an extended period. Such a process would make comprehensive review difficult and delay final action on the application."
The Hermitage Club is looking to obtain an Act 250 permit for a 10-year plan to address land and construction involving the Hermitage Inn, a golf course, the Deerfield Valley Airport and areas known as the east tract and base tract. The company said it has spent several years planning the 1,000-plus page document that calls for building out up to 600 units both on its private ski resort at Haystack Mountain and off site.
In May, the Hermitage Club submitted an application asking for partial findings on its master plan but decided to work on the application more and re-filed it in November.
A pre-hearing conference and site visit on Dec. 21 were held "in large part to assist the applicant in preparing a successful master plan application which adequately identifies and addresses the criteria of concern to the commission and parties," the commission's report said, noting the list of natural resource issues the Hermitage Club sought positive findings for had been reduced. Impacts to wetlands and streams for the entire project and to wildlife in the east tract were not included.
"In this case, unlike many other master plan projects, critical natural resource issues permeate the extensive land holdings," the report said. "Review of natural resource issues at this stage in the planning and development process is critical in order to successfully address cumulative impacts of the development."
A letter in May from the commission and other parties stated concerns that information regarding natural resource issues related to water quality, wetlands and wildlife habitat would not be ready for review for six months according to the Hermitage Club's application. A rule for partial findings says the commission should not accept a request for partial findings for a master plan application if it creates "a substantial hardship or inequity" for parties to the proceedings; will unduly delay final action on the application; or make comprehensive review of the project under applicable criteria "impractical or unduly difficult."
District 2 Coordinator April Hensel wrote a letter early in December calling for specific information on what parts of the project will be covered by existing public utility resources and why constructing a new power substation was necessary.
"For example, explain why this substation is needed for the entire Deerfield Valley — would it be needed despite the new developments planned or because of the new developments planned?" Hensel wrote. "Provide information on the total costs, the contribution of private parties and how ratepayers may be affected. Are there other alternatives to supplying needed power that do not involve the substation?"
Hensel asked about transportation management plans and whether guests at other inns owned by the company would be allowed privileges at the private ski resort. She also wanted to know the location of solar farms being constructed although her group will not be reviewing those projects.