Hermitage Club submits new master plan application


WILMINGTON — With land in areas outside of the Haystack Mountain area sold to outside parties, the Hermitage Club has submitted a new master plan application.

"The only determination now is mountain track," Hermitage Club founder and president Jim Barnes wrote in an e-mail to the Reformer before the 85-page document was submitted to the District #2 Environmental Commission on Friday.

The Hermitage Club runs a private ski resort on Haystack and a nearby golf course. Pending projects need the commission's blessing before the company can begin them as they are part of the master plan permit required for resorts in the state.

The company will "absolutely not" be re-acquiring the Deerfield Valley Airport and East Tract properties later on, according to Barnes. The land was sold off to two groups at $500,000 each at the end of July in an attempt to make the permitting process go smoother. The commission had pushed back the schedule for hearings on the Act 250 master plan permit application due to questions and issues that mainly dealt with those two properties.

East Tract is a section of land between the mountain and airport that includes lots and villages. There are no plans at this time to develop the golf course any further. The company had been planning to expand the airport runaway and build a road until the property was sold.

A 93-unit hotel is being proposed for a parcel near the mountain. The hope was to begin construction this summer.

The new application, Barnes said, is slightly different than the one submitted to the commission.

"The master permit filed is essentially the same as was originally granted, which allows for a total number of 450 keys," he said, referring to a term used for home, townhouse, condo hotel or hotel unit. "We have moved a couple of the buildings around, reduced density in some areas and have essentially moved some on one area of the mountain tract to another. It's also updated to new wetland standards. We've agreed to redo some old culverts with new open bottom culverts to allow fish passage up stream. We've agreed to preserve certain areas for bear habitat."

Consultant Michael Zahner said all the findings of fact involving natural resources were "fully vetted" with the Agency of Natural Resources.

"In fact, we have incorporated most — if not all — of their suggested revisions to the findings over the course of the past several weeks. We have accepted all of ANR's proposed permit conditions under the natural resources criteria," Zahner wrote in an e-mail that included the findings as an attachment. "ANR was provided an advance courtesy copy yesterday."

The findings of fact look at Act 250 criteria and explain that the Hermitage Club divested itself of the two properties. The company "has represented to the commission that it no longer has any right, title or interest" in either property, the document said.

Addressed in the findings are items such as air emissions, stormwater management, water-quality monitoring, waste disposal, water conservation, streams, wetlands, traffic, aesthetics, archeological investigation, wildlife habitat, agricultural soils and energy conservation.

Several permits are needed in addition to the master plan. The Hermitage Club is hoping to install solar equipment at five sites, construct a new power substation and expand Mirror Lake to enhance its existing snowmaking abilities. The latter will require a "needs and alternative analysis" to meet ANR stream flow policies.

Mirror Lake plans also include creating public access for kayaking, boating and fishing. Another recreational activity to be added is a "Mountain Coaster" at Haystack.

Wilmington is looking at providing an extra $1,016,800 of municipal services each year with all the proposed development, according to the findings. But the projects are estimated to generate $2,086,000 in annual municipal revenue and $5,876,000 for the state's Education Fund, which is collected through property taxes.

"The project is oriented toward seasonal lodging accommodation use and will have minimal, if any, year-round occupancy," the findings stated. "At completion, the project's year-round average occupancy level — or 'effective population' — will be approximately 842 persons, a 28 percent increase over the town of Wilmington's current 'effective population' level."

Nine to 10 more students in Wilmington and 33 to 34 more students in the region are projected with development associated with the master plan.

The timing of the traffic light at the Route 100 and Route 9 intersection in downtown Wilmington is expected to be improved to assist with traffic flow.

The design of the master plan, according to the findings, "has avoided placing structures in floodplains."

Special precautions will need to be taken for Bicknell's Thrush, a rare bird species found above 3,000 feet on Haystack. Some hiking trails would be closed from May 15 to Aug. 1 under conditions put forth in the findings.

Hours of operation for blasting is expected to stay in a 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. window Mondays through Fridays, according to the document.

Call Chris Mays at 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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