Wilmington DRB considers application for 'Adventure center'


WILMINGTON -- A building that is approximately 100 years old could become home to a new business that would be unique to the downtown area.

"We're calling it an adventure center," said Bruce Lessels, of Zoar Outdoors, who has offered the owner, Cliff Duncan, $236,000 for the property.

An application for conditional use, historic review and flood hazard review to allow renovation of the structure and establishment of a retail and recreational use at 36 West Main St., was discussed by the Wilmington Development Review Board on March 17.

If approved by the DRB, the building may be used to sell kayaks and stand-up paddle boards. That equipment would also be available for rent, as would be bicycles, cross-country skis and snowshoes. Zoar also has plans to provide personal guides who would be available for tours of the Deerfield Valley. Haystack Mountain and various trail systems were mentioned as possible places to introduce to customers.

The DRB received a letter from Agency of Natural Resources Floodplain Manager Josh Carvajal who stated that more information would be needed before he could approve a flood hazard review.

The site was used for retail as long as anyone could recall. Duncan had purchased the building in 1972 and he believed it was grandfathered into approval within existing zoning bylaws.

"I was thinking you're doing things that are slightly different than retail so I looked at definitions. It would be something the board would definitely have to decide on," said DRB Chairwoman Nicki Steel.

Lessels told the DRB that he'd like the business to be open seven days a week, and hours may be extended depending on when tours are scheduled. Retail operations may be closed to the public while a general manager waits for a tour to return. A maximum of five or six employees would be hired. Most of the people would be guides or drivers taking people off the site, Lessels explained.

When asked whether tours or retail would be the primary source of revenue for the business, Lessels said they were looking to tap into a market they did not have in Massachusetts.

"Ideally, we hope it would be 50/50," he continued. "Down in Massachusetts, we have a whitewater kayak shop. It's a very specialized shop. Up here, we're expecting it to be broader."

Duncan explained mitigation measures planned for the building. The furnace would be 8 feet above the floor level, the fuse box will be at least 5 feet above floor level and all furnace ducts except possibly one will be above the ceiling. Two windows would also be removed.

When asked to consider how the building may float or may be anchored more extensively for the next hearing, Duncan mentioned that concrete will be poured in order to construct a flat surface for the interior floor and anchor bolts are included in the plan.

"I would offer that it survived three floods and hasn't moved yet," he said.

The plans for the building will largely depend upon how much the property is assessed at as well as project costs and how those fall in line with FEMA regulations involving substantial improvement and substantial damage.

Duncan disagreed with the listers' assessment of the property and may seek outside counsel for assessing it.

There was a recess of the hearing until March 24, when board members hope to hear back from Duncan and Carvajal. Although it's not a regularly scheduled meeting date, board members felt it was important to hold sooner in order to hasten the process.

"I realize you were under the gun to do that," said Wilmington Works co-chairwoman Lisa Sullivan. "Renovation to this particular building is critical ... I think that we have a building owner who is willing and ready to renovate his building and a business owner who is willing to move in."

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or cmays@reformer.com. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.


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