Wednesday January 9, 2013

WILMINGTON -- Ann Coleman's proposed new gallery has faced its fair share of hurdles, but on Monday night, some confusion was cleared up, giving her hope that this process may be coming to a end.

"What I want to accomplish tonight is to get on the same page," Development Review Board Chairperson Nicki Steel said at the start of the meeting. "So we're all clear on what needs to come in."

The goal of the meeting was to prepare a list of items that needed to come to the board and zoning administrator, as well as things that the board would review at the next hearing slated for Feb. 4.

Coleman's art gallery was devastated by Tropical Storm Irene and since the building was in the Historic Review District in Wilmington, the newly proposed gallery has to meet strict guidelines that the DRB has to take into consideration. Only with the board's approval can Coleman build the gallery she has dreamed of.

"I feel like Stevens Engineering gave a lot of clarity to the project," Coleman told the Reformer on Tuesday. "I do hope that Feb. 4 will be the fourth and last time we have to meet with (the DRB)."

The hearing had gone into recess for a month, giving the board and applicant time to review some documents as well as provide more documents, but from the start of the Jan. 7 hearing, Steel said it wouldn't be the last one before the board could make its decision.

The proposed building has gone through changes in its blueprints and plans. At Monday night's hearing, the main things the board wanted to see were the layout plans and information on flood-proofing the building.

The board looked over the elevation certificate to start with. LineSync Architecture Principal Architect Joseph Cincotta showed the board the site plan with setbacks, which were made from information that came from a survey of the historic review district.

He went over the handicap access ramp and the two parking spaces proposed.

The back roof overhang was another item of interest. It will allow for water from the roof to move away from the building.

"We're trying to have it drip four feet out," Cincotta told the board. "Splashing was an issue with the last building."

The proposed gallery will be moved farther away from Hayseed Gifts. It will be built farther from the road, as well, which has changed since the last hearings.

"I think the reason it was moved was because it was right on the line," Wilmington Zoning Admin-istrator Alice Herrick told the Reformer on Tuesday. "Water dripping off the roof fell on someone's property. They decided to move it back a little and give everyone a little more elbow room."

Having the proposed gallery further from the road means that it can be built without being approved by Vermont Agency of Transportation.

The Monday hearing also delved into the floating structure plan, which is meant to prevent flooding, keeping the building above water if it were to rise to a high level.

"We've made it more complicated than it had to be," said engineer Bob Stevens, of Stevens & Associates, citing the confusion from previous hearings before he discussed the plans to prevent future flooding from damaging the gallery again.

When a flood causes three feet of water to enter the gallery, the building will start to rise, he said. The valves inside the building will need to be closed. The structure will then sit on piers, which are metal pipes that will be on all four corners of the building.

"It's a little unconventional," said Stevens, citing its experimental use in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. "I think it's a worthwhile investment."

The floating structure, according to Stevens, won't move once it is floating. It will just rise and then go back down, when the flood levels go down.

The building will also be a foot above the flood elevation level that FEMA recommended.

"We know from Irene, in this valley, that it's above the mapping for Wilmington, by several feet," said Stevens.

Some other preventative measures include membranes that would keep water out of the structure and floodgates, which can be installed at the front door and a window.

"Because that window comes down low, that would need to be protected from flood waters," Herrick said of the window where a picture or painting will be displayed behind it, which will be about the same size and shape as the door.

The flood gates are made of metal and will be "strong enough to withstand force of the water," said Herrick. These flood gates will be bolted right outside the building and will be installed whenever there is a flood warning.

The DRB is asking Coleman's team to send her some setback dimensions, the length of the roof overhang, dimensions of the handicap ramp and some information for meeting the criteria for variances and waivers.

"Sometimes an applicant has a different way of looking at things that is an assistance to the board and can be very helpful," said Herrick about the board's request for information on meeting the criteria for variances and waivers.

Steel also told Stevens that the board would like a description of the floating structure "that nonengineers could understand" for the next hearing, It was discussed that the proposal should also be reviewed by the Southern Vermont Floodplain Manager Josh Carzajal, who works for the state.

"Our requirement is to send him the information on the new project and he's supposed to review it from the state standpoint," Herrick said. "It's a statutory requirement to notify the state when we do something like this."

Carzajal assists the board with its decision. He makes sure that it conforms with the flood elevations.

It was mentioned that a gas tank may be buried underneath the proposed gallery.

"I have no idea if there is anything over there," President of the Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce Cheryl Rothman said. The Chamber of Commerce owns the property that the proposed gallery is seeking to build on.

A metal detector was used in that area, but no one was sure that there was a gas tank. It was recommended by Stevens that an environmental assessment be done.

"It will certainly be very helpful after Sharon McMahon speaks to the Chamber of Commerce to give them clarity about the gas tanks," said Coleman.

McMahon is the associate director of the Brownfield Program, which is in charge of cleaning up sites that may be contaminated.

There are funds available through a revolving loan fund, for which the Windham Regional Commission has been accepting applications. The goal is to promote a cleaner environment.

Coleman also mentioned the cost of going in front of the board.

"The more times I have to go in front of them, the more it costs me," she said, referencing the professionals she has hired to represent her proposal.

Fundraising for Coleman's Irene recovery plans is still ongoing. For more information on her gallery or to donate, visit artistanncoleman.com.

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or cmays@reformer.com. Follow Chris on Twitter@CMaysReformer.