ST. ALBANS CITY — St. Albans City has received site plan approval for a new 25,000 square foot commercial building on the corner of Congress and Main streets and 60 new units of residential housing on Maiden Lane.
The approval from the Development Review Board (DRB) comes with conditions. First, the city must provide documentation to both the DRB and Design Advisory Board (DAB) of 19th century buildings on Main and Congress street which will be demolished as part of the project. Before demolition may begin, the city must also receive additional approval from both boards.
Second, the city must come back before both the DAB and DRB for final approval of the design of the new buildings before beginning construction.
Typically, site plan approval would include design, but the city had asked for an approval of the overall layout of the site first so that architects will know what they may and may not do on the site before beginning final design of the building.
The city is also seeking approval to move the police station from Lower Welden Street to the current Community College of Vermont (CCV) building on South Main Street. CCV would relocate to the new building on Main Street, taking over its second floor.
The city has argued that bringing CCV’s students, faculty and staff into the heart of downtown will be a boon for downtown businesses.
The DRB took testimony on relocating the police station Monday night.
Chip Sawyer, the city’s director of planning and development spoke on behalf of the city. He characterized the proposed site as “a very, very nice location for public safety.”
Currently, when police officers leave the station, they travel down a residential street, Sawyer noted. The South Main Street location will put the officers directly on to a major road.
The CCV building has 89 parking spaces, three of which have handicapped designations. Under the city’s regulations, just 34 would be required for a public safety facility. The building also has room for growth, said Sawyer.
The fire department’s largest trucks will remain at the Lower Welden Street location, according to Sawyer.
One neighbor, who said she lives on Locke Terrace, spoke favorably of the move. “CCV is in my front yard and I don’t have a problem with the police moving there,” she said.
She did have questions, wanting to know if the city plans to lease or buy the site and if tax increment financing (TIF) would be used.
Sawyer said it is unclear if the city will ultimately purchase the site. City manager Dominic Cloud had previously indicated a lease with purchase option was possible. Because the public safety facility was not included in the original TIF application to the Vermont Economic Planning Commission (VEPC), the city would have to revisit that application to use TIF funds, Sawyer explained.
Voters did approve $2.5 million in TIF funding for the overall project in March, but those funds were for the purchase of an apartment building on Maiden Lane, to address any contamination issues in the soils at the Main Street and Maiden Lane sites and to construct parking at those locations.
In addition, the resident from Locke Terrace asked about maintenance of the CCV building. “The PD right now is a dump and CCV is not,” she observed.
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