DRB to visit new Pownal town hall site

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POWNAL — The Development Review Board will visit the site of a planned new town hall Saturday, following a public hearing Wednesday on the project.

"It is rare if ever for a project that big that we would have issued a permit [that] night," said Mike Slattery, vice chairman of the board, when reached Thursday. The purpose of such a meeting is to allow the public and the board to ask questions and learn about the project, he said.

The board plans to visit the site Saturday at 10 a.m.

Some of the abutters to the site were at Wednesday's meeting, and they raised questions about parking on Center Street, Slattery said.

"We just wanted to see the actual layout of that," he said. "Parking at the site where they are planning on having the parking lot."

Besides parking, the board had questions about things like stormwater runoff and lighting.

"The board had just a couple of questions," Slattery said. "And they're minor questions."

Slattery said board members Karl Strohmaier and David Dence Jr. also questioned why a project as large as the new town hall effort didn't have a professionally-drawn site plan. For such a project, an engineer would almost always produce a professionally-drafted site plan, rather than the hand-drawn plan the board received, Slattery said.

It's common to have a site visit for a project this big, he said.

Generally, when a permit is issued for a project like this, it comes with conditions that must be met, he said.

"And we don't anticipate any problems with that, unless there's something unforeseen," Slattery said. He also said he didn't believe any of the abutters present at the meeting were against the project.

The site visit will make it more clear what the parking situation will be, Guntlow said when reached Thursday.

"[Board members] need to visually see how the space is," she said. "So they can understand the dimensions more clearly."

The site will probably have anywhere from 10-12 parking spaces, plus two spots compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, she said.

Guntlow said she will go back to the DRB at their meeting in March. The date of that meeting has not been set.

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More than likely, that meeting would involve determining under what conditions a permit would be issued, Slattery said.

"As far as I know, [the permit] could be issued that night," he said. "But it would have to be formally put in writing."

Guntlow also confirmed Thursday that she is still in the process of applying for a building permit from the state, with "just a couple of little things that we have to finalize," including details having to do with the foundation.

In a conversation with the Banner in December, G.J. Garrow, a Division of Fire Safety Rutland regional manager, said the Division of Fire Safety can take up to 30 days to review a project in a plan review.

When asked if expected costs for the project have increased beyond the estimate of $775,000, Guntlow said, "not at this time, no."

Project organizers are also still aiming for an April construction start date, she said.

The zoning permit has been delayed because permission had to be secured from the Select Board to waive the application fee, and there were some things that were missing from the application, Michael Gardner, zoning administrator, previously said at a Jan. 13 Select Board meeting.

"Pauline was pretty diligent about getting it to me," he said of Guntlow at that meeting. "But that was the only reason there was a delay. It was held back because the permit application at the time was incomplete."

Last June, the Select Board unanimously voted to move ahead with a proposal from Messina Builders and Guntlow for a new town hall. The project involves moving a circa-1840s schoolhouse on North Pownal Road to town-owned property on Center Street. Modular construction is planned for the town's core offices, with the attached schoolhouse to be used for Select Board meetings and a Pownal History Center.

That proposal was one of five responses the town received by the deadline.

On Oct. 29, Pownal solidified this plan, with voters approving a $600,000 bond for the project by a tally of 326 to 124.

The total project cost was estimated at $775,000, with the town also using $175,000 in a town office building fund that has built up during the long search for a new office.

There has been some confusion over the status of the zoning permit. At the Jan. 13 Select Board meeting, Gardner said the zoning permit had been issued, and Administrative Assistant Linda Sciarappa later affirmed that it had, but that information was not correct.

In a Jan. 21 email, Gardner said he didn't believe he ever said the project had received the permit, rather, he has said the applicants have an application in for a permit that must be heard by the DRB at a public hearing.

The current town hall structure includes a town clerk's office on Center Street, dating to 1928, and a rear addition built during the 1970s.

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at pleboeuf@benningtonbanner.com, at @BAN_pleboeuf on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 118.


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