Monument View Apartments, state permitting process begins
BENNINGTON — After more than a year of controversy, the debate over a proposed 24-unit affordable housing development will likely be heating up again now that Act 250 hearings have commenced.
About 30 people attended a preliminary hearing and site visit on Monday for the Monument View Apartments, a $5.5 million project set to be built off Eden Way between South Street and Silver Street on land once slated for a condominium development.
The project has been approved by the Bennington Development Review Board. Act 250 is the state-level permitting process.
The preliminary hearing was to conduct a site visit to familiarize those involved with the property in question. It then moved to the Bennington Free Library where John Liccardi, acting chairman of the District #8 Environmental Commission, explained to the public the rest of the process.
A public hearing will be held Nov. 9 at TD Bank at 9:30 a.m. There, those with party status can present evidence the Environmental Commission will consider.
The commissions work like development review boards insofar as they hear testimony on development projects and can deny them, grant them, or grant them with conditions.
Liccardi said to get party status, one must first request it. If they are an abutting landowner there's no question as to their party status. If not, they must show "particular interest," and the applicant has the right to object.
District Coordinator Warren Foster explained that someone concerned over noise who lives half a mile away from the project would not be likely to get party status based on that claim, but someone closer who was worried over their home being damaged from a blasting operation would.
There are 10 types of concerns the commission can look at when considering an application. They are as quoted from the state Natural Resources Board,
1. Will not result in undue water or air pollution. Included are the following considerations: (A) Headwaters; (B) Waste disposal (including wastewater and stormwater); (C) Water Conservation; (D) Floodways; (E) Streams; (F) Shorelines; and (G) Wetlands.
2. Has sufficient water available for the needs of the subdivision or development.
3. Will not unreasonably burden any existing water supply.
4. Will not cause unreasonable soil erosion or affect the capacity of the land to hold water.
5. Will not cause unreasonably dangerous or congested conditions with respect to highways or other means of transportation.
6. Will not create an unreasonable burden on the educational facilities of the municipality.
7. Will not create an unreasonable burden on the municipality in providing governmental services.
8. Will not have an undue adverse effect on aesthetics, scenic beauty, historic sites or natural areas, and 8(A) will not imperil necessary wildlife habitat or endangered species in the immediate area.
9. Conforms with the Capability and Development Plan which includes the following considerations: (A) The impact the project will have on the growth of the town or region: (B) Primary agricultural soils; (C) Productive forest soils; (D) Earth resources; (E) Extraction of earth resources; (F) Energy conservation; (G) Private utility services; (H) Costs of scattered developments; (J) Public utility services; (K) Development affecting public investments; and (L) Rural growth areas.
10. Is in conformance with any local or regional plan or capital facilities program.
Those with party status informed the commission what areas they would be offering testimony on. Many were the same issues raised at the numerous local hearings held in connection with the project.
Liccardi said some criteria the commission would not be bothering with as they don't apply, namely criteria 2 and 3, as the project will be using the town water supply.
He said for criteria 1-3, 4, 9, and 10, the burden is on the applicant to show those things won't be a problem. For criteria 5-8 and some elements of 9, the burden is on those with the concern.
Monument View Apartments is being proposed by Shires Housing, a private non-profit housing corporation that's been operating in Bennington County for many years. These apartments will be aimed at those making between $25,000 and $36,000 per year.
The land it's to be built on is technically part of the Apple Ridge condominium development, which only grew to be about nine units. Shires Housing will purchase the remaining land once the permits are settled.
At the hearing, State Representative Mary Morrissey, R-Bennington, said the Shires Housing application is listed as an amendment, and shouldn't be because what's being proposed is quite different from the development already permitted by the town and Act 250 some years ago.
Foster explained that whenever a parcel is developed and has an Act 250 filing, anything that happens there is considered an amendment rather than given a new case number. This is to avoid confusion over the years as projects come and go along with the people involved.
The project has received heavy local opposition. A group, spoken for by David Fredrickson called Healthy Neighborhoods, has formed to offer formal opposition to the project and were present at Monday's pre-hearing. Previously, members of the group have claimed a petition with over 1,000 signatures opposing Monument View.
Those against the project say it doesn't fit the character of the neighborhood, will increase crime and traffic, and overburden the tax base and schools.
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