Mount Snow’s Laurie Newton gave board members an overview of changes that have been made to the ski area’s plan to build a snowmaking containment pond near Cold Brook Road. Originally Mount Snow planned to withdraw water from the North Branch of the Deerfield River at a location across from their Howe Farm property, and was granted a permit by the Wilmington Development Review Board for the project. Now Mount Snow is returning to the DRB with a revised plan to withdraw water from a location on Cold Brook that is closer to the location of the proposed snowmaking pond. “That has eliminated a lot of pipeline,” Newton said. “It has reduced construction costs and energy costs over the life of the project. It has reduced the number of pump houses from two to one.”
Newton said the changes will also reduce the environmental impact of the project. Earlier plans called for an access road that would have multiple stream crossings to service a secondary pump house and the pond. Under the new plan, Newton said, Mount Snow will access the pond for annual brush cutting by way of existing VAST trails, and they’ll be able to reach the pump house using an existing gravel pit road.
The project will the subject of several permit hearings next week. On Monday, June 21, at 7 pm, the plan will go before the Wilmington DRB for zoning approval. On Tuesday, June 22, at 2 pm, Mount Snow’s water withdrawal plan will go before the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources Water Quality Division for a permit to withdraw water from Cold Brook. And on Wednesday, June 23, at 10 am, the project will be under review by the District Environmental Commission for an Act 250 permit.
Board member Susan Haughwout asked how the project would affect property owners farther down Cold Brook. “Will they see a significant difference in the Cold Brook that borders their property?” she asked.
Newton said that she didn’t expect residents would see any significant difference. “When we build something like this, we have to allow for a minimum flow that will always be passing through,” she said. “And the water withdrawal will only occur between November and March.”
Mount Snow’s plan calls for a dam that can be inflated during periods of water withdrawal, and deflated to allow normal flow when water isn’t being pumped to West Lake.
Board members voted to write a letter of support for the project, and to authorize town manager Bob Rusten to represent the town at the Act 250 hearing, and board members said they may attend as well.
The board also reviewed efforts to improve the town’s public process, a reaction to concerns voiced by residents during debate over the Bank Park pergola. In an effort after a vote on the pergola, Rusten asked the public to send in their ideas for improving the process. A number of suggestions came in, Rusten told board members, and the suggestions were sent out to town committees for their input. From the feedback that has been received so far, Rusten prepared a list of changes the town has made or plans to make.
Changes include holding at least one late afternoon or evening meeting (rather than a daytime meeting) for “big” projects, partnering with the Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce to disseminate information, board training by the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, and expanded communication through newspapers and existing mailings.
Action on one suggestion, to create a public electronic information kiosk, is also underway. “The town has requested a grant for an outdoor electronic kiosk so that when town offices are closed, people can still walk by and find out what’s going on,” Rusten said. “If we don’t receive the grant, we’ll put out some kind of bulletin board that’s protected from the weather.”
“I have to laugh, because there always was an outdoor bulletin board,” said Haughwout. “It was taken down when the town office was renovated, and people have complained for years. Now it has come full circle. I think it’s a good idea. Sometimes I post election notices in the window because I think it’s important information for people.”
Another plan in the works is to create an advisory committee of local citizens that will meet with Rusten once a month to discuss community concerns. Rusten said the goal of the committee is to talk about the “general tenor” of the town, rather than discuss specific issues, and steps that may be taken to address concerns.
In the initial process of addressing residents’ concerns, Rusten said, the town addressed “things that were objective and concrete suggestions.” But he said the changes discussed at the meeting were “only a beginning.”
In a discussion of further steps the town might take to increase communication, Wilmington resident Michael Gilberg said the town already did a good job of making information available to residents. “The website has a lot of data, and Mary (Towne) does a good job putting out information in biweekly e-mails,” he said. “If someone wants to find out what’s going on, they can get a pretty good idea.”
In other discussion, board members offered a brief review of the planning commission’s final draft of the town plan.
The planning commission will hold a hearing on the plan at 7 pm on Friday, June 25.
Board member Meg Streeter complimented planners for making the town plan a “readable document,” but she said she was concerned that the plan didn’t address “industrial” wind facilities. “Given our history with an industrial wind project, I would like the town to have a discussion about that,” she said. “We found we have no protection if that was proposed for Wilmington because our town plan doesn’t address industrial wind projects.”
Streeter said she would attend the planning commission’s hearing to raise her concerns.
Board members discussed a timeline of warnings and hearings that would lead to approval and adoption of the plan before the current plan expires on September 28.
Board members said the town plan became a priority after proposed zoning amendments expired. The board asked the planning commission to set the zoning ordinance aside and focus on the town plan before the current plan expires. “Zoning is supposed to flow from the town plan,” said selectboard chair Tom Consolino.
Consolino said the planning commission is turning its attention to revisions to the town’s sign ordinance now, and will return to zoning next.
Rusten said the proposed sign ordinance may be ready for the selectboard as soon as July 7.
In other matters, after a lengthy executive session, the board approved the hire of an architectural firm to work with the garage committee in designing a new town garage.
The board also reviewed a proposed amendment to the town’s traffic ordinance, and scheduled a hearing for public input on Wednesday, August 4. Proposed changes include additional parking restrictions aimed at keeping roadways clear for snow removal in residential areas.