Shires Housing hits snag over notifications
BENNINGTON -- A $5.5 million housing project appears to have hit a snag, as an engineer for the project said Tuesday a notification about permit hearings was sent to the wrong address.
"Our opinion, when we provided the notification with respect to the abutting property owners, was to notice the owner's association. I apologize ... we noticed the incorrect individual for Nathaniel Court," said Jason Dolmetsch, vice president of MSK Engineering, which has designed "Monument View Apartments," a Shires Housing project proposed for the incomplete portion of Appleridge Condominiums off Silver Street.
Several people attended a Development Review Board hearing where the project is being heard to say they did not receive notification of the hearings. It was pointed out that the contact person MSK used for notifying the Nathaniel Court home owner's association was not in fact the correct person, nor had they anything to do with the group.
Dolmetsch said he was not sure what led to the mistake.
Vermont law requires that entities seeking permits for certain projects notify abutting landowners.
The 24-unit apartment project aimed at people making between $25,000 and $36,000 per year has drawn fierce opposition from neighbors and others in the community who say the increased density will ruin the neighborhood, increase crime and traffic, and harm the tax base. It has drawn vocal crowds at DRB hearings as well as Select Board meetings. The Banner has also received numerous letters voicing opposition to the project.
Some from the Appleridge Condominiums also said they had not received notice of the hearings.
"With respect to the condo association, our opinion was that Appleridge Development LLC is still the landowner of the entire parcel, and therefore they are also the applicant, and did not need to get noticed," said Dolmetsch.
In 2006, the Appleridge Development company was granted permission by the DRB to build a number of condominiums on the site, but not all the lots sold. The project was one of developer Jack Appelman's many projects in the area, many of which did not come together and left residents upset.
Shires Housing is a non-profit housing corporation which renovates houses and has built new units on North Branch Street.
After people at Tuesday's meeting said they had not received notice, Planning Director Dan Monks said if the DRB approves the project and residents feel proper notice was not given, they have the right to appeal the decision through the courts, which has the power to void the applicant's permit.
Many people wanted the DRB to scuttle the application then and there and were angry about how the board decided to act.
The board voted to close the meeting and discuss its next move in deliberative session. Monks said it will notify attendees at the meeting via email what the procedure is going forward. Prior to this, DRB Chairman Charles Copp said if the board finds proper notice was not given, it can tell the applicant to correct the error and send out new notifications. This would start the DRB process anew.
People were still angry when the meeting closed and the board went into deliberative session. A number of other applications were before the board, including a proposal by Cumberland Farms to essentially move its gas station on Northside Drive to the next parcel over.
The Select Board has also drawn the ire of Monument View opponents for it support of a $700,000 grant that Shires Housing applied for from the Vermont Community Development Program. To get the money, Shires needed the town to be the recipient, and the town agreed. However, the board must still vote to adopt a resolution accepting the money. This will come up when the Vermont Community Development Board, the entity that awards the grants, and Shires Housing reach a "grant agreement."
The project's opponents have been urging the board not to accept the funds for the same reasons they want the DRB to deny the permit.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.
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