Downtown developer won't make Wilmington 'great again'
WILMINGTON — A developer is "canceling" projects for two downtown buildings after receiving unfavorable conditions from the town's Development Review Board.
"It's a real shame this location won't be redeveloped," Eric Silverstein said Friday in an email. "Both buildings will be boarded up and chain link fencing installed. This DRB is not preserving history, they're destroying the viability of this town. This is extremely troubling and a tremendous loss for the community."
Silverstein planned to open a coffee shop, maintain an office and rent retail space and an apartment across the street from the town office. He wanted to restore the existing slate roof, repaint and replace windows at 3 East Main St., also known as the Professional Building. At 5 East Main St., located next to the Masonic Lodge, he planned to replace windows, roof. siding and trim. And he had been asked to keep the historic nature of the buildings, which he now owns and have long sat vacant.
In its decision, the DRB said the proposed windows were not approved "as they are not consistent with the Greek Revival style of this historic structure and shall be replaced with double hung sash windows with divided light as described above."
"Double hung windows in lieu of plate glass windows shall be placed one above the other as was the structural approach used on Greek Revival structures," says the decision, which has not been published on the town's website yet but was provided by Silverstein. "While the number of openings is up to the applicant and openings may be expanded for larger double hung windows to let in more light, the same size and style shall be used throughout the structure and reasonable space shall be maintained between windows for visual symmetry and style consistent with Greek Revival."
Other conditions involved placement of the front entrance, using synthetic materials and lighting in the "Greek Revival style," screening utility boxes and trash receptacles, meeting with police and fire personnel to determine any additional safety requirements, providing documents showing sufficient municipal water and sewer allocation, and avoiding easement or right-of-way conflicts with the owners of 4 South Main St., which houses Red Fox Shop. Any changes would require administrative approval from the zoning administrator or another review by the board, according to the decision.
Town Manager Scott Tucker said he heard the decision was issued but had not read it or spoken with Silverstein.
"We would be disappointed if that is his response," Tucker said when told about the plan to board up, "since the Professional Building sits in the historic downtown and gateway."
Silverstein had taken issue with another property during a hearing held the same night his project was considered.
"We're making Wilmington great again," he said, raising concerns about aesthetics of the backyard of a neighboring property at 6 South Main St., where there are plans to move Opa's Kitchen Supplies from West Dover. "There is no screening for any of the garbage cans at that building right now. And at our second floor, we have a direct view of it and it is just unsightly. And the landscaping between the buffers there is not maintained whatsoever."
Fred Houston, owner of 6 South Main St., agreed to remove a stump and keep garbage inside the building until it is removed. He is seeking a permit to allow a retail business on the first floor of the building.
Opa Kitchen Supplies owner Cordelia Garofalo plans to move her business from West Dover and Meg Streeter would move her real estate business from the first to the second floor. No construction is proposed.
"I just want to see all the properties maintained like we're going to be maintaining it," Silverstein told the DRB.
He would need to return to ask the board for permission to change the use of the properties.
"We haven't really gotten that deep in it," he said, waiting to see how his construction plans fare with the board. "If we get approved, we're going to move forward with the businesses."
Representing the Masonic Lodge next door, Tom Fitzgerald said he wanted to see specifics on the coffee shop as there had never been food service near the building before. He also serves as Select Board chairman.
Garofalo said she wants to get away from selling small appliances. She described the products that will be available at Opa as "fun and functional" — including cloths to replace paper towels, reusable lunch bags, and glass and stainless steel straws.
"It's because it's Vermont and because I care about our community and our state and our country and our world, you know," she said. "I'm trying to get products that make sense to have in your house but also I like being a minimalist and I don't want people to come and buy junk. I want people to come and buy stuff they will actually use."
Garofalo said a few customers suggested she move to a place where people could do more shopping. On Route 100 in West Dover, her business was located next to only one retail store. She reported getting three to 10 customers there a day. She hopes to get 20 to 30 in Wilmington.
Reach staff writer Chris Mays at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.
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