Questions abound as Hinesburg DRB reviews project

By Gail Callahan

Earlier this week, the Hinesburg Development Review Board (DRB) once again discussed the Haystack Crossing plan, slated for construction along the west side of Vermont 116. They held a closed door, private meeting to discuss the proposal, which includes a more than 90-acre lot subdivision with 225 residential units, about 50,000-square feet of commercial usage, along with green and open space.

Last week, a hearing regarding the plan drew nearly a dozen Hinesburg residents, many of whom objected to the proposed project.

Board members peppered Ben Avery and Mike Buschard, who presented the application to the panel, with an array of questions on density bonuses, solar gain, and project layout.

During an exchange with DRB Chair Zoe Wainer, Avery noted that project developers have experience in the area of green home certification, an area in which he lacks expertise, and added that he felt confident developers could meet those goals. It was unclear how it would be accomplished.

During the public comment portion, John Kiedaisch, who sits on the Hinesburg Land Trust, made it clear that the Trust felt strongly that Clayplain Forest shouldn’t be disturbed. He added that the group opposed a series of walking trails in the area proposed by developers. He also questioned whether the area would be a suitable home for a proposed solar array, and called on the Board to reject the proposal.

After listening to public input, Avery noted the solar array and the walking trails are merely options in the design phase. He also indicated developers would work with the Land Trust to alleviate impacts to the forest area. He defended the design of the proposed houses and said that project officials stand behind their work, noting the plan meets density standards mandated by the town. Avery and Buschard also sought to stem concerns about density bonuses and the fate of the solar array, noting that the Public Service Board reviews all metered solar projects. After listening to developers’ and residents’ concerns about solar power, Wainer made known her frustration with the plan’s solar gain, calling it “a shell game.” Avery said he hopes to maintain the proposed solar array, but noted other large-scale solar opportunities can be found in the development in the absence of the array.

Mary Beth Bowman of Hinesburg objects to the proposal in its entirety. She commented that many families put down roots in town a century ago, while others came to Hinesburg more recently, moving here for the rural character of the area. She criticized the plan’s “suburban development,” calling it “wrong.”

“It’s all about money,” she said.

Deliberative session

The Board reviewed Enos and Hinesburg Center LLC applications and granted approval for the three-lot subdivision sketch plan. The Board also gave the thumbs’ up to the Hinesburg Center’s site plan revision.