Hermitage Club, Wilmington heading to Environmental Court


WILMINGTON >> After the Development Review Board's conditions regarding the Hermitage Club's hotel plans were challenged in a motion for reconsideration, the company is now appealing the board's findings of fact and statement of findings to Vermont's Environmental Court.

"Primarily, what they're appealing is the condition that we wanted them to build a garage to house the ladder truck," Zoning Administrator Craig Ohlson said Wednesday after receiving a hard copy of the appeal notice from Hermitage Club attorney Bob Fisher's office. "That's the portion they're most aggrieved about."

In its decision regarding the motion for reconsideration, the board said the ladder truck should be acquired and the construction of a garage should be completed before the hotel opens. The board worried about placing the cost of "the otherwise unnecessary fire truck" and the garage on the taxpayers. But the Hermitage Club argued that their previous agreement with the town, which says they will contribute $350,000 for the vehicle, contained a section exempting them from further donations to the town for 10 years. The price tag for a ladder truck is expected to be nearly $800,000.

The Hermitage Club said the intent of the agreement with the town was to address the impact of the company's development on the town's ability to respond. The DRB, not part of these negotiations, said its authority could not be limited or waived by an outside agreement.

"The Hermitage Club has moved forward in good faith to honor a 2005 agreement that the Town of Wilmington had reached with the former owners of Haystack Mountain," the company said in a statement. "The Hermitage signed the agreement with the Town of Wilmington back in March 2015 with the provision that the town would not approach the Club for more funding surrounding this project, including housing of fire apparatus. The Hermitage Club expects that the Town of Wilmington will honor its business agreement. The Hermitage has enjoyed a thoughtful and fair relationship with the town, and anticipates that this matter will conclude swiftly."

Approval of the 93-unit condominium hotel contained several conditions, two of which were rescinded by the board while reviewing the motion for reconsideration. The condition regarding the garage was a waiver meant to make up for the project exceeding the town's 35-foot height limit. The hotel application called for construction of a 79-foot building.

The Selectboard, an interested party in the appeal, was expected to discuss the matter Wednesday night with town attorney Lance Shader and Ohlson in an executive session. Ohlson said the DRB does not have interested party status.

While the timeline was not yet established, Ohlson said he assumes a conference will be scheduled soon.

"We don't know when that is at this point," he said. "But if it goes through the full process, it will take awhile. It could take upwards of a year if it goes through the full process."

The Hermitage Club was involved in the last time a DRB decision in Wilmington went to Environmental Court. An abutter to the Hermitage Club's airport had issues with the company's request to extend the runway strip. Ohlson said the appeal was eventually dropped because the abutter received other parcels of land from the Hermitage Club.

Contact Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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