Hinesburg DRB questions development impacts Sketch plan review of Hinesburg Center, LLC Phase II

By Gail Callahan

The Hinesburg Development Review Board (DRB) is pondering what to do with a large construction project’s infrastructure that spans the Village District and the Village Northwest zoning districts.

The Hinesburg Center, LLC Phase II is a mixed-use plan that includes 74 residential units, over 9,000 square feet of commercial space, two pocket park areas, and a community garden. The plan appeared before the DRB last week for sketch plan review. After listening to details on parking, commercial use, and housing, board members grappled with the scheme’s potential impacts on the village.

DRB member Greg Waples expressed disappointment about the overall design and worried about infrastructure impacts and the town’s ability to provide sufficient water capacity for such a large scale project. “We’re not building for the future here. It’s more of the same,” Waples said.

Project developers were taken aback by comments that the overall design isn’t sufficient. Project developers including Mike Buscher, a landscape architect with T.J. Boyle Associates, stated project managers are eager to work with the DRB on design issues.

During the presentation, Buscher emphasized the project attention to smart growth, a theory that avoids sprawl by concentrating growth in a compact walkable urban center. It also advocates compact, walk able, bicycle-friendly land use, including neighborhood schools, complete streets, and mixed-use development with a range of housing choices. “This project means to foster concepts in the Town Plan,” said Buscher.

Hinesburg’s Planning and Zoning Department issued a report on the proposal five days before the DRB meeting. In the document, staff outlined concerns about the plan, which include:

  • Development density and associated bonuses
  • Parking
  • Yard space
  • Mix of uses
  • Vision for western agricultural fields
  • Phasing
  • Storm water treatment in Agricultural District
  • Community park/Creekside neighborhood
  • Alleyway and front yard waivers
  • Grading and elevations

The staff report recommended a reduction in dwelling units by about 20, and commented on insufficient parking for proposed uses, need for detail for plans of western agricultural lands, concerns about lack of sufficient water capacity to serve the project, flooding and drainage issues on a lot from the former Creekside subdivision, and the treatment of an alleyway access for vehicles.

During the meeting’s public comment portion, residents voiced concern ranging from project phasing to impacts on the community park and the adjacent Creekside neighborhood. Dan Jacobs, who lives in the Creekside neighborhood, talked about maintaining the aesthetic quality of the area. He voiced concern about a common lot and emphasized the need for screening between the areas. “The area is important to the neighborhood,” he said. “We want to keep space open.”

Kyle Bostwick, who also lives in the Creekside neighborhood, said he is concerned about proposed construction phasing. He said when Phase I of the plan was built, large dumpsters and trucks disrupted traffic flow.  He is also concerned about maintenance of the community park and asked about green space requirements.

Hinesburg Zoning Administrator Peter Erb also voiced the need for developers to incorporate businesses in proposed projects that enhance and strengthen the village’s character.

The next meeting of the DRB will be Jan. 6 at 7:30pm. The discussion will likely be dominated by whether placement of essential development infrastructure outside of the village growth area is acceptable, while continuing with its sketch plan review for the Haystack proposal. The two projects have a similar issue: placement of a principal storm water drainage detention pond in the Agricultural zoning district. Like Hinesburg Center, LLC, the Haystack project also spans two zoning areas, the Village Northwest and Agricultural districts.