ST. ALBANS CITY — The city council on Monday night discussed proposed changes to the city’s zoning laws, one of which would facilitate further expansion of Mylan Technologies, Inc., an eventuality – including more new jobs—that was suggested by the company late last year.
The council, as a matter of regular business, held a first reading on three proposed zoning changes, one of which would eliminate setbacks in the industrial service zone for properties bordering property owned by the New England Central Railroad.
Mylan Technologies, Inc., requested the change, said Chip Sawyer, director of planning and development.
Mylan, which completed a major expansion on its property last year and has purchased the state office building on Houghton Street, is now apparently interested in plans leading up to expansion.
The zoning change would allow the company to make use of more of its property on Lake Street.
Sawyer argued a setback is not needed between the railroad and a service industrial use such as a factory, since there is no need to minimize the impact of one use on the other.
The proposed zero setback would only apply if the property on the other side of the railroad were also zoned business or industrial.
Ward 1 Councilor Tim Hawkins raised questions about the ability of the landowner to do maintenance if structures are built right up to the property line.
Sawyer replied it would be the responsibility of the landowner to negotiate that with the railroad, adding that the city had spoken with the railroad about the proposed changes and railroad officials did not have any concerns.
City manager Dominic Cloud added that the railroad is accustomed to making such arrangements with other landowners and even has a fee structure in place for charging other landowners who need to use railroad property for maintenance.
Peter Cross, of Cross Consulting Engineers, who was representing Mylan, said a landowner would be foolish to build right up to the property line without first making arrangements for maintenance with the railroad. In addition, he said landowners could build on seven of the 10 feet and still have room for maintenance.
State and local officials were on hand last September for the official ribbon cutting of Mylan Technologies, Inc.’s new three-story building on Lake Street.
The project, which received $4.2 million in incentives from the Vermont Economic Progress Council (VEPC), added more than 150 jobs to the 8.2-acre campus.
The new 83,400-square-foot facility was just one part of the company’s expansion plans. The St. Albans facility is now 390,000 square feet.
Mylan CEO Heather Bresch spoke last fall of the company’s intent to double the size of its workforce within five years. The company already has doubled the size of its St. Albans staff, including a much smaller facility in Swanton, total employment is about 600 people.
Mylan is a Fortune 500 company selling pharmaceuticals in more than 140 countries and employing 20,000 people worldwide. One out of every 11 prescriptions in the U.S. is filled with a Mylan product and 40 percent of AIDS patients in the developing world are treated with Mylan drugs. The St. Albans operation involves the manufacture of transdermal patches used to administer time-released medications.
Also at Monday’s meeting, Sawyer said a proposed ordinance change would add four properties on the north side of Lake Street to the business and design review districts.
The parcels from 247 to 257 Lake Street include Holy Angels Church, a multi-family residential building and the former site of Chez Paul. Currently, all three buildings are in an area zoned low density residential and are legal, non-conforming uses.
“It’s a matter of making the zoning conform to what is and what it was historically,” said Sawyer.
Manahan said the owners of the former Chez Paul location have been unable to sell it because of the limitations on the use. The former storefront is now zoned residential.
Another proposed ordinance change would add a new category of signs – public interest markers. The markers would be freestanding and designed for reading by pedestrians. The regulations require that the signs contain factual information and that no more than five percent be used for information about the sign’s sponsor.
The proposed ordinance requires that the Design Advisory Board (DAB) approve the markers. Hawkins questioned the need for that provision, given the detailed nature of the ordinance. The zoning administrator could approve the markers, he suggested.
Sawyer suggested that because the markers are new it might be beneficial to have the additional oversight. But more importantly, DAB review often proves beneficial to applicants because of the expertise of the board, he explained.
The council will revisit all three proposed changes at a second reading prior to adoption.