Putney park and ride discussion rolls on


PUTNEY -- The Selectboard has formally approved a mediated settlement between Putney resident Daniel Hoviss and the state of Vermont over the 84-space park and ride that is going to be built on land the state owns near the Putney Fire Station.

Hoviss appealed the Putney Development Review Board's September decision to allow the state to construct the park and ride on the parcel of land that sits along the Putney-Dummerston town line. Hoviss' appeal was headed for the Vermont Environmental Court, but the two sides were able to reach a partial settlement last week and the town approved the agreement at Wednesday night's Selectboard meeting.

Under terms of the deal, Hoviss agreed to drop his appeal, which will allow the state to continue to work on the facility. The state in turn agreed to install six Level 1 electric vehicle chargers, and a covered bike shelter for up to 12 bikes.

Hoviss wants the state to install motion sensor lighting, but the state has not agreed to change its lighting plan, which calls for six 105 watt LED lights that will be on all night. The two sides will continue to try to find common ground on the lighting before an environmental judge hears the case on May 15.

About 40 people showed up for Wednesday night's meeting. The discussion lasted for more than 90 minutes, with many in the crowd opposed to the size of the project, the proposed lighting plan and the process that led up to the DRB's decision to approve the permit. Many of the comments Wednesday were made in support of reducing the lighting for the project. Many of the people were willing to give up on the fight to limit the size of the park and ride, but they were concerned with the lighting, which is proposed to remain on all night.

"What's going to happen with the lights? That is my concern," said Harry Brown, who lives in Putney Meadows, across the street from the site. "I'm willing to surrender on the 83, but I really want to know whether those lights are going to be shining into my windows, 24 hours a day."

The board continually stressed that any decision about the lighting was going to be up to an agreement the state and Hoviss might work out, or, in the absence of a settlement, the environmental judge.

Selectboard member Steve Hed said there were safety concerns with not having lights, and he said the park and ride might be used without adequate lighting.

There was some support for the project.

"I originally opposed this because of the size," Bara MacNeill said. "But I called the state and got answers about why they made the decisions they did. It's unfortunate that it is large because Putney is a small community, but I feel like it is important enough that Putney lose a little bit of our comfort to support something that I think will really help the environment, and help the region use fewer cars."

There were also comments made about the process that led up to the Development Review Board's decision to approve the project. Many of the people who spoke at the meeting said they had no idea the 84-parking space project was being planned for Putney, and they were frustrated that their time to weigh in on the project had mostly passed them by.

The Putney and Dummerston development review boards held a single meeting in September to consider the application and approved the plan at that meeting

"I want to support the Selectboard in rejecting this plan primarily as an exercise in making sure that any future project of this magnitude is adequately vetted," said Greenough Nowakowski. "If it's a pain in the neck now, it's because it wasn't a pain in the neck earlier when it would have been more effective for more of us to have a say."

Laughlin said the park and ride had been talked about in Putney for many years, and there were many opportunities to weigh in on the project while during the planning stages.

"This isn't just something that's just been juggled around in the last couple of months and suddenly everyone is coming forward," Laughlin said. "We've been talking about this stuff for a long time, and these projects take a long time to do. If you want to be involved, you have to be involved early on. You've got to keep an eye on what's going on if you want to be involved."

And Selectboard Chairman Scott Henry stressed that that the Selectboard does not have a role in weighing in on development projects.

"It is not our purview to vote on a development project," Henry said. "The Selectboard is not in a position to say to the state of Vermont, ‘No, you may not build a facility on your property.'"

"When this was, in all reality, up for discussion, was when this was reviewed by the Development Review Board," Laughlin said. "At that time, that was the time when the size of the park and ride was up for debate. The Development Review Board approved as it was, at that time, and we are not in a position to disagree with that."

Town Manager Cynthia Stoddard said the Development Review Board is bound by the town's zoning regulations, which are approved by the town.

The DRB hearing in September was warned and the public could have come out then to speak out against the project, but she said even then the DRB has to issue a permit if a project meet the town's zoning bylaws,

"The development review process in this particular town is not flawed," Stoddard said. "The people on your Development Review Board are very conscious about all these things that you are talking about. It is a very black-and-white process. There can be 150 people in the room who hate a project, but if it meets the criteria, they can't say no."

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 279, or hwtisman@reformer.com. Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.


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