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01/22/2009

By Kara Herlihy

Sugarbush development representatives were present at the January 15 meeting of the Mad River Valley Planning District Steering Committee for continued review of the Lincoln Peak Redevelopment project.

Sugarbush has submitted an Act 250 application for complete findings on Phase 1B of the project and partial findings on Phase 1C. The first hearing is scheduled for February 3. To date Sugarbush representatives have met with the Warren DRB twice, with another meeting set for February 5.

Sugarbush Director of Development Jason Lisai also indicated that they have had continued correspondence with the Warren Fire Department, Warren Select Board and Mad River Valley Ambulance Service. In addition, Lisai said they have met with the Friends of the Mad River, and also plan to meet with the Central Vermont Regional Planning Commission.

Members of the steering committee questioned their specific role in the application process, including how their opinions will be measured and weighed throughout the application process. Steering committee chair Jared Cadwell said that the planning district's commentary is taken seriously by the [Act 250] body.

Lisai said there will be opportunity for the planning district to comment on the application, while the steering committee was created to assist in the management and help control development on the hill.

Steering committee members along with Lisai, Margo Wade and senior project manager for VHB Pioneer Juli Beth Hinds spoke to the ongoing traffic analysis in Lincoln Village, as well as how they measure occupant capacity as it applies to parking and public safety issues associated with intersections and emergency access.

The ongoing development of Sugarbush Village comes in the form of a two-phase, two- to three-building construction project to accommodate skier services and provide more residential space. Encompassed within the proposed buildings will be the children's and adult ski school, the rental shop, and a Discovery Center building. The three buildings total 32,000 square feet.

The children's ski school building is proposed at 14,000 square feet with three stories, 4,600 of which will be reserved for residential space. The adult ski school and rental shop building is planned for 12,000 square feet and two stories, housing ticket and season pass offices, staff lockers, repair shop and retail space.

The Discovery Center will be a two-story, 1,100-square-foot building containing real estate information and general resort information. Lisai emphasized the need to blend the building's aesthetics with Clay Brook and the rest of the resort schematic.

Infrastructure needed for the construction project is already in place. Additional parking will be required, according to Lisai, and is preliminarily planned for underground.

Steering committee member Bill Parker from the Waitsfield Select Board questioned the units' sustainability at their projected size. Lisai said there still needs to be more market analysis completed to determine the appropriate mix of two- and three-bedroom units. Hinds said there is very small appetite for small spaces, adding that two-, three- and four-bedroom units are most typically sold first.

Warren Planning Commission member Jim Sanford expressed concerns over the size and scope of the construction project, where buildings could measure 80 feet high. Sanford, along with other steering committee members, also questioned a path between the new construction area and the original Sugarbush Village. "I'm concerned that this project really turns its back on the village," Sanford added.

Lisai said that, as the build-out continues, a hard-packed maintained connection is intended for the Lincoln Peak base area. He added that the new and old businesses in the old village are viable and make a connection necessary and desirable.

Wade said, in terms of affordable housing prospects, Phase 1C will allow a per unit allocation to Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, comparable to a similar agreement made when Clay Brook was constructed.

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