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Opponents Challenge Scott Milne's Quechee Development In Supreme Court

A 10-year battle over the proposed Quechee Highlands project isn’t over yet, as the members of the Two Rivers-Ottauquechee Regional Planning Commission have voted to continue the fight against the would-be developer in Vermont’s Supreme Court.

To the developer, travel executive and former Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Milne, the plan to build more than 100,000 square feet of office, retail and residential space in 10 buildings on a 168-acre parcel near Interstate 89’s Exit 1 interchange would be a boon to the local economy and workforce.

“Just this first phase, we think, has the potential to bring about 300 jobs to Windsor County,” Milne said.

But the Two Rivers Commission, led by Executive Director Peter Gregory, has been active in opposing the plan before the District 3 Environmental Commission. In 2013, the environmental commission relied on Two Rivers’ testimony when it denied Milne’s project a state permit under Act 250, which governs large projects in the state.

“The regional plan is quite clear, that principal retail should be in downtowns, not at interstates or interchanges or stripping along our rural highways,” Gregory said.

Two Rivers’ efforts to block the mixed-use project were dealt a serious blow in mid-November, when a Vermont Superior Court judge ordered the District 3 Commission to issue Milne an Act 250 permit.

The Superior Court agreed that Milne’s project, which had received support from the Hartford Planning Commission, complied with the 2007 regional plan. The ruling found that “the phrase ‘principal retail establishment’ means a project where retail is the chief, leading or most important use,’” and that, because only 40,000 of 115,000 square feet in the Quechee Highlands project would be devoted to retail, the term does not apply.

On Wednesday evening, about two dozen Two Rivers members voted to appeal the court’s decision to the Vermont Supreme Court, which will put the project on hold. Hartford cast the only opposing vote, according to Gregory.

Milne said he was “extraordinarily saddened” by the vote, and condemned the move as bad for the state’s reputation.

“It’s a waste of taxpayer money and really bad branding for Vermont being a business-friendly place,” he said.

Gregory said that Two Rivers’ scope of responsibility is larger than any one project.

“Our regional plan was adopted by 30 communities in this area of the state, and it’s consistent with state planning law,” he said.

Gregory said Two Rivers took up the appeal in part because it has implications for other projects throughout the state.

“It could,” he said, “imperil local and regional planning under Act 250 in other locations.”

Gregory said the appeal to the Supreme Court was filed Thursday, and that he anticipated the court would schedule proceedings soon.

This story was originally published by the Valley News and is republished here with permission. Matt Hongoltz-Hetling can be reached at or 603-727-3211.

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