By MARK KOBZIK
An engineering firm representing R.L. Vallee Inc. in the design of a proposed new Maplefields in Charlotte has told the town Zoning Board to withdraw the project’s permit application.
In a letter to zoning officials Thursday, David Marshall of the South Burlington firm Civil Engineering Associates Inc., explained that a recent meeting with Vermont Agency of Transportation officials left them with options they could not accept.
Project engineers met with VTrans officials following a Zoning Board Meeting on Jan. 23. The meeting drew a large audience with many local residents concerned and unhappy with the proposal to build a gas station, restaurant and commercial farm stand at the intersection of Route 7 and Ferry Road. Opponents claimed the project was not in step with the town’s rural nature.
The meeting with VTrans focused on vehicle access to the roughly three-acre site at the southeast corner of Rt. 7 and Church Hill and Ferry roads. State transportation planners said they would approve the project but would prohibit left turns out of the site onto Rt. 7 heading south.
“This is unacceptable to us and would create a dangerous situation since customers will try to make those turns” anyway, Marshall wrote.
The Maplefields team, in turn, proposed an alternative which VTrans said would require modifying the roadway, including steps to fill in a wetland on the south end of the project site.
“Vallee does not believe those wetlands should not be so impinged,” Marshall wrote. “Vallee does not wish to pursue a project here where a primary choice is to disturb the wetlands in order to have safer access to the site.”
Based in St. Ablans, Vallee’s company runs the Maplefields chain of convenience stores and gas stations with more than 40 stores in Vermont, New York and New Hampshire.
Marshall noted that the developer put considerable time and effort into the design of this project, with attention to traffic solutions and aesthetic concerns. For example, the building’s design was meant to mimic a farmhouse style rather than a commercial building.
Marshall’s letter thanked the town and wished luck to the Spear family which had hoped to sell the property for the project. The owners consider the property a financial burden costing upwards of $100,000 in property taxes in the last 10 years.
Charlotte resident Rebecca Foster helped organize a group called Charlotte Crossroads in opposition to the development. She was pleased with the company’s decision to drop the project.
“I’m thrilled,” she said. “It gives us a chance to find a solution for that property. It opens up really great opportunities. People want to put energy into a solution.” Foster and others circulated a letter signed by 170 residents stating their concerns about the Maplefields proposal.