Plans to build a Maplefields gas station, restaurant and convenience store along Rt. 7 at Church Hill Road in Charlotte are moving through the permit process and drawing attention and concern from town residents.
The project was scheduled to go before the Charlotte Zoning Board of Adjustment Wednesday night after The Citizen went to press. Developer R.L. Vallee Inc. of St. Albans is seeking conditional use approval.
The 2.95-acre site is at the former Denton’s gas station owned by the Spear family at the corner of U.S. Route 7 and Church Hill Road. The application to the board includes: “a traffic impact study, site lighting plan, landscaping plan, building and site renderings and site plans showing the proposed grading and stormwater management for the site,” according to the conditional use application sent to Town Planner Daryl Benoit by Civil Engineering Associates.
The sketch plan review on Sept. 21, was the first in the three-step approval process by the town. Maplefields presented its rough sketch of what the property would be turned into and since then has put together an updated proposal to addresses concerns raised at the last meeting.
Some in town are troubled by the proposed development. A letter submitted to the Charlotte Selectboard, Planning Commission and Zoning Board by resident Rebecca Foster stated multiple criticisms over traffic safety, environmental impacts and other issues including impact on town character.
By Wednesday morning, the Jan. 10 letter had 159 signatures from residents. It that they support re-developing the land, but listed several requests for revisions to what Maplefields proposed. The letter said the current proposal by Maplefields would “dramatically change the landscape of our town” and called for slower deliberations since, “many Charlotte residents are not even aware of that it is under consideration.”
After citing eight concerns over Maplefields’ proposal, the letter also requests specific modifications regarding traffic and pedestrian safety, opposition to a fast- food restaurant, restricting the size of retail space, and wastewater.
“We implore you to protect and honor the documents that articulate the town’s values; they were cultivated over many years, written specifically to inform appropriate development in our town, and represent Charlotters’ interests,” the letter says.
R.L Vallee Inc. operates similar gas stations and convenience stores throughout New England. A veteran of local permitting review, company President Skip Vallee said he was confident about the updates made to the project plans after substantial changes were made including solar panels and addressing traffic safety concerns. Vallee described the plan as, “reflecting the character of Vermont.”
“The folks representing us at the upcoming meeting will address the concerns voiced by residents,” he said.
Foster, who worked with several community members to draft the letter, commented on the importance of sending a letter rather than getting in heated arguments on social media platforms. She called the proposed gas station and My Fresh Café restaurant “very inappropriate” for Charlotte.
She explained that the site in question, is considered by many as the “Gateway to Charlotte” so it should reflect the values of Charlotte. Foster said she is sensitive to concerns over Charlotte being the town of “no” and agrees the lot can’t be “derelict” forever, but input into the development process now can shape what is built and in place for years to come.
The Citizen will update this report online following Wednesday night’s zoning board meeting.