Sandra Levine, Conservation Law Foundation, 802-249-2607
Brian Shupe, Vermont Natural Resources Council, 802-793-5074
Paul Bruhn, Preservation Trust of Vermont, 802-343-0595
May 22, 2015 (MONTPELIER, VT) — Environmental and preservation groups are working alongside local residents to stem a massive proposed development at the Randolph exit (Exit 4) off I-89. Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), and Vermont Natural Resources Council (VNRC) filed paperwork today seeking to participate in the Act 250 proceeding that will review the project. The Preservation Trust of Vermont (PTV) is a key partner in this effort. The proposed development would destroy important farmland and fails to comply with the town and regional plans.
This case is an important test for the ability of Act 250 to protect valuable farm resources.
Concerned citizens in Randolph are also raising questions about the proposed development, which would include over one million square feet (the equivalent of roughly 17 football fields) of office space, light manufacturing space, housing, and a visitors center and “showcase” on 172 acres – much of which contains some of the state’s best farm soils. The proposed development is located in a rural and scenic interstate exit.
The District #3 Environmental Commission, the regional board that reviews Act 250 applications for northern Windsor and Orange Counties, is being asked now to evaluate whether the proposed project meets two of the Act 250 criteria: 9B, which involves the project’s impact on primary agricultural soils, and 10, which involves the project’s conformance with local and regional plans. CLF, PTV, and VNRC bring to the Act 250 Commission valuable expertise and a long and successful history of protecting natural resources and supporting sound development.
The proposed project would include:
- 274 residential units
- 280,000 square feet of office space
- 236,000 sq. ft. of light manufacturing space
- Visitor Center and Vermont Products Showcase Center totaling 45,000 sq. ft.
- Fitness and Recreation Center totaling 10,000 sq. ft.
- 25,000 sq. ft. retail space in addition to the showcase center
- 180-room hotel and conference center
“Protecting valuable farmland from over-development reduces climate change impacts and allows local farmers to thrive and grow,” said Sandra Levine, senior attorney with CLF. “This is an important test case for Act 250’s protection of farm resources. Bulldozing the area’s best farmland for a massive new development at a scenic highway exit robs Vermonters of their farm heritage,” she said. “It makes it harder to farm the land that remains and leaves farmers to piece together a viable farm from the few small parcels left behind.”
“Vermonters strongly identify with our rural economy, our farms, our working lands,” said Brian Shupe, VNRC’s executive director. “The agricultural soils threatened by this project are a finite natural resource – once they’re gone, they’re gone,” he said. “With all the success Vermont has had bolstering our local food system, dropping a new Taft Corners on good agricultural land in rural central Vermont just doesn’t make sense.”
Taft Corners is the regional, commercial center located on former farmland adjacent to Exit 12 off I-89 in Williston.
In addition, Shupe noted, the regional plan is clear that “primary” retail development, as outlined in the proposal, must take place only in downtowns and villages, and that the project could undermine the economic vitality of downtown Randolph.