Commission hears changes, benefits, concerns about Mount Snow plan
by Christian Avard
Dec 23, 2010 | 2408 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Laurie Newton points to a display screen during the Act 250 hearing at Mount Snow.
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DOVER- The District Environmental Commission convened its first hearing on the Mount Snow master plan Monday. Mount Snow representatives announced they made a slight change in regard to Handle Road and discussed how the master plan can improve economic development and address traffic concerns.

In the master plan, Mount Snow will construct a town green, residential and skier service buildings, 197 residential units, and a variety of skier services including a new base lodge, restaurants and bars, a ski and rental shop, an expanded tubing hill, an outdoor ice skating rink, and more.

The master plan includes a 40,000-square-foot ski school building, a transit center, and two parking garages, and involve aesthetic changes such as the removal of Snow Lake, the restoration of the North Branch of the Deerfield River, walking and biking trails, and a new maintenance area at Sundance Lodge. Snow Lake will be eliminated as an in-stream impoundment, the North Branch of the Deerfield River will be restored to its natural state, and a stormwater pond will be incorporated as an enhanced landscape feature.

Mount Snow will add walking and biking trails alongside the newly restored streams, and a new maintenance area at the current Sundance lodge base area. Mount Snow officials announced that Handle Road will not be rerouted as originally planned. “In our original master plan submission, we proposed the elimination of a section of Handle Road between the intersection of the South Access Road and intersection with the Snow Lake Road. Since that time, we had an informational meeting with party status members (and others) who expressed concerns about eliminating that section of Handle Road. As a result, we have modified our original plan to show a new proposal that maintains the connectivity of Handle Road,” said Mount Snow director of planning Laurie Newton.

The first phase of the master plan is the Carinthia project. It includes 150 residential units, a new 24,000-square-foot base lodge, 84 units on the Howe Farm property on Route 100 in Wilmington, and 38 units on the Mount Snow golf course driving range across from the clubhouse in Dover. The Howe Farm units will be designated as affordable housing, while the Mount Snow golf course units will be designated residential units sold at market value.

Monday’s hearing did not deal with the first phase of the master plan. Instead, Mount Snow representatives discussed how the plan will contribute to the local economy and meet the town’s traffic needs. Consultant Doug Kennedy, of Norwich, said the master plan meets Act 250 criteria six, seven, and nine.

According to Kennedy, the master plan will not create an unreasonable burden on the Deerfield Valley’s educational facilities but will enhance them. Kennedy conducted a growth impact study and estimated that the area could see an annual growth of 25 new housing units per year. “While you’re looking at a big plan, the pace is quite measurable,” said Kennedy. “Seasonal home (owners) generate demand of services. It increases employment, more business, and results in new visitors. They will spend money.”

Kennedy said economic development growth will also attract more students to local schools. If the master plan is approved, the area will see an increase of 25 new students over 20 years. “Dover would get 14; Wilmington, five; and the surrounding towns of Wardsboro, Newfane, Searsburg, Somerset, and Marlboro would have a combined total of four students,” said Kennedy.

Halifax, Whitingham, and Readsboro were not included in Kennedy’s growth impact study but he estimated that each town would gain less than one student over 20 years. Kennedy also estimated the town of Dover will see approximately $903,000 in annual municipal taxes and $4.5 million in annual education taxes. “Second-home developments generate a lot of tax dollars,” said Kennedy.

Jennifer Conley of Conley Associates, of Killington, conducted a traffic study during peak travel times last February. Her team collected data on Route 100, Route 9, and Handle Road. If approved, the Mount Snow master plan will increase public transportation usage and improve traffic conditions at the ski area. The new residential units at the Mount Snow base area will be within walking distance of the mountain or easily accessible by the MOOver.

If the master plan is completed, Conley estimates a 20% to 33% increase in alternative modes of transportation. In particular, the MOOver will make an average of 0.41 trips per unit from the Grand Summit Hotel; 0.36 trips from second homes; and 0.47 trips from residential condos.

In terms of day skiers, traffic will be oriented to North Access Road and South Access Road will be used mainly for access to existing and future residential units. Conley said traffic lights are proposed to be installed at the North and South Access Road entrances and there will be signage pointing day skiers to the most direct route to the mountain.

Rajnish Gupta, Vermont Agency of Transportation traffic research manager, was on hand to give the agency’s assessment of Mount Snow’s traffic plan. Gupta said VTrans “is not endorsing any plan” but offered suggestions for a more detailed plan.

He suggested traffic impact studies on Route 9, and Dorr Fitch and Higley Hill roads in East Dover, a transportation demand management strategy for the Route 100 and Route 9 intersection, and a timeline for traffic mitigation.

Mount Snow officials said they would take the ideas into consideration.

However Rep. Ann Manwaring, of Wilmington, voiced concerns about the impact on the town of Wilmington.

“I hope the commission will take into account to remember the village of Wilmington is a jewel of Vermont. It’s a human scale walking community and to mitigate traffic that is happening somewhere else should not rip apart that fabric,” said Manwaring.
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