Hinesburg Selectboard weighs feasibility of BlackRock well

Staff Reporter

Water was the subject of most of the talk at the Hinesburg Selectboard’s meeting Monday night.

The board spent most of the meeting discussing the ramifications if the well BlackRock Construction is developing doesn’t yield as much water as predicted. Some of the selectboard members and members of the audience were concerned about how it would affect the town’s commitment to the Haystack Crossing project that BlackRock is developing on 75 acres just north of the town’s business center, across from NRG Systems on Route 116.

The development is dependent on finding enough water.

Hinesburg’s Wastewater Allocation Ordinance states that any use of the town’s wastewater system requires an amount of water from new construction that would “enable appropriate and full utilization of any wastewater allocation.”

Director of Planning and Zoning Alex Weinhagen said that at this time there are three scenarios for the project. The best scenario is that the well has a huge yield, way more than what the agreement with BlackRock requires.

This works great for Hinesburg because under the agreement the well that BlackRock is developing would become the town’s. The town would have to allocate 30 percent of the water to the development and the other 70 percent would belong to Hinesburg.

The second scenario is that the well produces in the middle range, a good source of water but not enough to fill the requirements for Haystack Crossing. If this happens, the town is obligated “to make a good faith effort” to find another well, Weinhagen said.

The third and worst scenario is that the well doesn’t yield enough water to be significant.

“If this happens, the whole agreement goes away,” Weinhagen said. “We’re pretty sure that scenario three is not the case because it’s already been drilled. And it’s got a pretty good flow of water.”

How much and if it’s enough can’t be said for certain, yet. There will need to be a drawdown test to make sure that the well is not interfering with the water production, also called “drawing down,” of other area wells. Water is pumped at a high volume while area wells are monitored to make sure it doesn’t draw them down.

By phone, Ben Avery of BlackRock Construction said they have done informal drawdown tests and indications are that it didn’t affect the flow of other wells. But formal tests will be done by the state of Vermont.

BlackRock plans to develop Haystack Crossing in phases. The first, Phase 1A, will be one mixed-use building with five residential units, one mixed-use building with three residential units, a building with 50 senior-living units, 19 single-family homes and four townhouses with four units or more than 81 housing units, Avery said.

A mixed-use building will have a commercial space below with living spaces above, but the mixed-use buildings will not be taller than three stories.

The town has approved water for the project from the existing Hinesburg water system for Phase 1A, but Phase 1B is dependent upon how much water comes from the well that BlackRock is developing.

Phase 1B is planned for one mixed-use building with five residential units, one mixed-use building with 36 residential units, a dedicated commercial building, 28 single-family homes and 38 attached townhouses – more than 112 residential units.

Weinhagen told the selectboard that BlackRock had revised their figures and that they want the first phase to be bigger.

“So, the Phase 1B allocation request is quite a lot larger than what was described back in September,” he said. “I don’t have an issue with that.”

Weinhagen said that BlackRock was operating at its own peril in terms of investing in the project if the well doesn’t work out.

The original request had been for 10,000 gallons per day of sewer and 11,500 gallons per day of water to complete the Phase 1B, but now the request is double that amount for sewer and triple for water.

“I don’t understand how the town can allocate what we do not have permitted,” said Andrea Morgante, who served on the selectboard for 27 years but was attending as a member of the public on Monday.

She said the allocation from the existing town water capacity for the Phase 1A portion of the development that was agreed to in November is legitimate. But she said she thought to give an allocation for the Phase 1B for water that is not permitted goes against state rules.

“There so many unknowns in the whole permitting process,” said Morgante. “I don’t see how the state would not come down on the town for allocating what it does not have.”

Selectboard chair Phil Pouech said that the board would consult with hydrogeologist Cindy Sprague and with legal counsel to make sure that they are not putting the town at risk if “something doesn’t happen.”

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