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Opponents Push For Exit 4 Development To Be Thrown Out

VPR/Steve Zind
After two hearings, the District 3 Environmental Commission wants the developer to submit a revised plan.

Two state environmental groups are asking a district environmental commission to dismiss the application for a large development at Exit 4 in Randolph.

In a motion filed this week, Conservation Law Foundation and Vermont Natural Resources Council told the District 3 Environmental Commission that developer Jesse Sammis has, “utterly failed to show that the proposed project meets the clear Act 250 standards for protecting valuable farmland.”

After holding hearings on the proposal, commission members issued a recess order, telling Sammis to submit a more compact plan that protects additional prime agricultural soils on the 172-acre property. 

Sandra Levine, an attorney for Conservation Law Foundation, says at this point the proceedings should be concluded, rather than allowing the developer to amend his plan.

“Act 250 provides strong protection and if a project fails to meet those very clear requirements the request should be denied. Allowing a developer to constantly amend a project wastes everybody’s time and money,” says Levine.

Levine says the developer has already had opportunities to respond to the commissions concerns.

Peter Van Oot, an attorney representing Sammis, said his client will "respect the commission's request that we work to make the best plan possible."

The commission has also requested information on other local properties owned by the developer, to determine if they are suitable for some aspects of the Exit 4 plan. Sammis owns a number of Randolph properties, including the 1,300-acre Green Mountain Stock Farm.

The commission’s review of the proposal is limited to the plan’s impact on farmland and it’s compliance with local and regional plans. In the future, specific projects proposed for the development will trigger a full Act 250 review.

The environmental groups see the plan as an important test of farmland preservation under Act 250.

The project has won the approval of the Randolph Development Review Board and the support of the select board.  

A recently formed local group, Exit 4 Open Space, opposes the plan, citing the size of the development and concerns over its impact on local businesses.  

Another hearing on the plan is scheduled for September 25.

Update 7:34 p.m. This post has been updated to add a comment from attorney Peter Van Oot.

Steve has been with VPR since 1994, first serving as host of VPR’s public affairs program and then as a reporter, based in Central Vermont. Many VPR listeners recognize Steve for his special reports from Iran, providing a glimpse of this country that is usually hidden from the rest of the world. Prior to working with VPR, Steve served as program director for WNCS for 17 years, and also worked as news director for WCVR in Randolph. A graduate of Northern Arizona University, Steve also worked for stations in Phoenix and Tucson before moving to Vermont in 1972. Steve has been honored multiple times with national and regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for his VPR reporting, including a 2011 win for best documentary for his report, Afghanistan's Other War.
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