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Developer Withdraws Controversial Exit 4 Plan

Steve Zind
Developer Jesse Sammis has withdrawn a proposal for a major development at the Randolph exit of I-89, but he says he still plans to develop land near that location.

A proposal for a major development at the Randolph exit of Interstate 89 has been withdrawn. 

Developer Jesse Sammis is asking the District 3 Environmental Commission to end its partial review of the plan which called for a mixed use development on 172 acres at Exit 4.

The commission was weighing the impact of the development on farmland and compliance with local and regional plans.

Because no actual construction was proposed, a number of other Act 250 criteria were not under consideration.

Environmental groups that opposed the scale of the development and the impact on prime agricultural land, hailed the decision.

“We are very pleased that Mr. Sammis decided not to move forward with that project,” says Sandra Levine, of the  Conservation Law Foundation.

“This was a massive development project on very valuable farmland. It would have destroyed a very valuable view in the area,” says Levine. “It remains to be seen if he will move forward with something new.”

Brian Shupe, executive director of VNRC says his group is also very pleased with the developer’s decision. Shupe says one option might be to purchase the land to protect it from future development.

“That would be a great outcome if the land were put into the hands of local farmers and that would be one option we would like to pursue. There’s no commitment or firm plan to pursue that but I think it is one of the options on the table,” Shupe says.

He says if another development proposal is submitted, it will need to protect significantly more land than the one that was under review.

Sammis withdrew the plan after a series of confidential meetings with CLF, VNRC and Preservation Trust of Vermont.

Local opponents formed the group Exit 4 Open Space to fight the plan.

Brooke Dingledine, an attorney for the group, which did not participate in the closed-door discussions says Exit 4 Open Space members are ‘cautiously optimistic’ about Sammis’ decision.

“Because we have not been provided any information about the conversations that have been going on between Mr. Sammis and the environmental groups that have standing in the case, it’s a little bit hard to know how to react to the current proposal to withdraw the application,” she says.

Dingledine says the group felt strongly the plan was flawed, especially in terms of the development of prime agricultural land.

She says because the commission’s partial hearing won’t be concluded, it’s possible the developer could submit a similar proposal in the future.

"I remain fully committed to a project at Exit 4 that will best serve the Town of Randolph, local business and agricultural interests, and my family." — Developer Jesse Sammis

In a news release, Sammis said he still plans to develop the land.

“I remain fully committed to a project at Exit 4 that will best serve the Town of Randolph, local business and agricultural interests, and my family,” Sammis said.

Peter Van Oot, the lawyer representing Sammis in the commission proceedings, says the decision to withdraw the application is not a setback, but simply part of the process of developing a plan that could ultimately pass a complete Act 250 review.

“We have yet to file an application, nor have we filed plans for an application for full findings under all the criteria or for any other purpose including construction approval. We still have that option available to us,” says Van Oot.

Van Oot would not characterize the size, scope or timing of any future plan or whether there will be one at all.

“We’ll take what we learn from this process and decide what we’re going to do next,” he says.

Updated at 4:55pm on Thursday, Feb 18: This story was updated to include comments from Brooke Dingledine and Brian Shupe.

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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