Maplefields proposed for busy U.S. 7 intersection

The Charlotte Planning Commission tonight will begin its review of plans for a Maplefields convenience store and gas station proposed for the southeast corner of the busy U.S. 7 intersection with Ferry Road and Church Hill Road.

The application by R. L. Vallee, Inc., of St. Albans, would create the company’s 48th store with locations across Vermont, upstate New York, and New Hampshire, according to chief executive officer Skip Vallee.

The project application is for sketch-plan review, an early step in the development permitting process where design details are still being refined. Vallee said he will have examples of several store designs to share with the planning commission. “We plan to do more listening than presenting,” Vallee said ahead of the meeting.

The proposal is for a 5,200-square-foot building for a typical Maplefields convenience store, a snack bar-restaurant with some seating inside, along with six gasoline pumps and a separate island for diesel fuel. The application also lists commuter parking, a visitor booth for Champlain Byway information, and a separate building to be used for a farmers market.

The site is just under three acres on the east side of U.S. 7 south of Church Hill Road; a small road called Root Road runs along the back side of the property. The parcel is owned by Helena and William Spear, Jr. Vallee said his company has an option to purchase the property pending permit approvals for the project.

The site currently has two buildings: one just over 2,400 square feet once used as a gas station and automobile service garage, and the former home of Uncle Sam’s Dairy Bar at 4,600 square-feet. Both structures would be removed.

Vallee said the application already reflects preliminary discussions with town officials as they prepared the proposal. It addresses one concern about curb cuts along Route 7 with an eye toward clearly defining the spots where vehicles may turn into and out of the parking lot.

The notion to have room at the site for a farmers market also came out of the early informal conversations. Vallee said that could fit in on the south end of the property. The exact dimensions and configuration of a market and vendor area still need to be worked out as engineers map out wetlands around the edges of the site, he explained. There is no specific design for that yet, either.

“This was something we are willing to consider – that it would be nice to provide the town or some other entity with space to the south for a market area,” Vallee said. “The concept is not that far along.”

Additional local permitting hearings will follow tonight’s sketch plan. Vallee said he did not expect the project will need state review under Act 250, Vermont’s development-control law. He said he hoped construction could happen next year once the permitting process was completed.

The Planning Commission begins with site visits tonight for two applications on its agenda. The visit at the proposed Maplefields site is at 6:30 p.m. The commission’s meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.

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