Act 250 hearings for True North Wilderness’s Fayston project have been put on hold while the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) reviews the project’s impact on bear and wildlife habitat on the 650-acre Lathrop parcel.
True North Wilderness is seeking permission to develop a wilderness therapy school for up to 42 teens and young adults plus up to 14 counselors on a parcel of land known as the Lathrop parcel. It straddles two zoning districts, the soil and water conservation district and the rural residential district.
The Lathrop parcel is subject to a permanent public recreational easement and it abuts the Phen Basin block of the Camel’s Hump State Forest and the Big Basin lands. The parcel is accessed via Bassett Hill Road.
True North has proposed three permanent buildings, 12 permanent campsites and utilization of existing trails, plus a section of new trail. Each campsite would have two yomes and a composting toilet. Participants would camp throughout the parcel during the spring, summer and fall and rotate through the permanent campsites in the winter.
Act 250 hearings for the project began last month and were slated to continue this week on August 2. This week’s hearing was postponed by request of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources.
Because there is question about the impact of having True North campers and counselors on the Lathrop parcel all year long, the District 5 Environmental Commission asked the ANR to review the project and its potential impact on wildlife and bear habitat.
The commission issued its request for assistance from the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, the Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Department of Environmental Conservation –Wastewater System and Potable Water Supply Division to assess potential impacts of the project on French Brook (which runs through the parcel) and the significant wildlife habitat in the area.
After the District 5 Commission requested assistance from the state, the ANR issued a July 22 memorandum requesting an additional 30 days to conduct a field review and file comments under Criterion 8(a), one of Act 250’s 10 review criteria.
The District 5 Environmental Commission has ruled on party status for the Fayston project, granting status to the Fayston Citizens Group, adjoining landowner Patti Lewis and the adjoining Big Basin Trust.
In Waitsfield, True North Wilderness is also seeking an Act 250 permit to run its wilderness therapy program on a privately owned piece of land on Dana Hill Road, as well as on the Howe Block of the Camel’s Hump State Forest. At that site, True North seeks permission to have up to 24 campers, six to nine counselors, three composting toilets and two permanent tent sites.
The District 5 Environmental Commission conducted a site visit on July 19 and heard testimony related to party status. No decision on party status for the Waitsfield project has been released.