Hermitage Club responds to developmental impact concerns

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WILMINGTON — While waiting on another hearing date to be set up, the Hermitage Club responded to concerns about its master plan from the Windham Regional Commission.

The Hermitage Club operates a private ski resort at Haystack Mountain, the Deerfield Valley Airport, and several inns and restaurants in Dover and Wilmington. Currently, the company is seeking an Act 250 permit from the state.

Expansion of the runway is recommended by Vermont Aviation, the FAA and aeronautical engineers hired by the company, according to the Hermitage Club. But the WRC worries it would "set a precedent in the amount of permitted impact to and loss of wetlands."

"Shortening the runway from 4,400 feet to 4,050 feet would save only 0.30 acres of primary impacted wetlands and would greatly decrease the safety factor for the proposed runway extension with little environmental benefit," the company wrote to the District 2 Environmental Commission on April 21. "Presently, the airport with its 2,650 foot long runway has many FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) safety deficiencies which have resulted in several pilot and passenger deaths over the past three decades."

Expanding the runway could change the character of the region and it would only benefit "a very limited number" of local people, the regional commission said, suggesting that the DEC put a cap on the daily number of permitted landings and takeoffs to reduce the likelihood of increased traffic, noise and air pollution.

Addressing the regional commission's concerns about protecting natural areas and wildlife resources, the Hermitage Club asked the DEC to rule on whether it was meeting its legal requirements around the issue.

The company said it is planning to construct a road in the East Tract — near Kingswood condominiums, the Mount Snow Golf Course and Handle Road — after foregoing "previously permitted development in the wildlife corridor area." The agreement was to create a 50-foot wildlife passage in exchange for road improvements.

"There will be no cutting of forest in this corridor other than what is necessary to maintain the road and verge without the direct oversight of the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department," the company wrote. "In addition, the Hermitage Club will attempt to acquire privately held lots within this corridor to protect against development by other landowners."

The impact of road construction on wetlands also prompted comments from the regional commission. But the Hermitage Club said only about 0.12 acres or 5,225 square-feet of two classes of wetlands would be affected and none of the 13 vernal pools would be.

The regional commission noted it was pleased with the company's submittal of a master plan for the overall resort development. Towards the end of 2014, the regional commission raised concerns about "after-the-fact permitting" in a letter to the DEC.

"As we understand, the natural resource issues related to the base tract have been largely resolved between the applicant and the Agency of Natural Resources," the regional commission wrote in its April 6 letter, referring to a section of Hermitage Club property in an area different than the East Tract. "We appreciate the efforts that have been made so far and hope the applicant will continue to work cooperatively with ANR to address remaining issues."

Contact Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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