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The Hermitage Club Says Act 250 Is Delaying Project

Courtesy, The Hermitage Club
An aerial look at the construction site from 2013. Owner Jim Barnes says the Act 250 permitting process has delayed construction.

The owner of a southern Vermont private ski resort says his Act 250 permitting process is delaying the start of a major project.

The Hermitage Club filed its Act 250 permit application in November.

Earlier this month, the company asked the District 2 Environmental Commission to speed up the process.

The company also requested that the it be able to start work on parts of the project that were not tied up in ongoing environmental studies.

This week, the commission turned down both requests.

Hermitage Club owner Jim Barnes says the delay puts his company in a very tough position.

"It's extremely frustrating to have created this viable community, and have people want to join it and spend more money to help support it, and not have the ability to do anything," Barnes says. "Without permits we can't build anything."

The Hermitage wants to build hotels, condos and restaurants on Haystack Mountain in Dover.

The company says it planned to invest almost $300 million in the Deerfield Valley during construction and create more than 200 full time jobs.

Barnes says it's now likely that construction will not start this year.

In the commission ruling, Vice Chairwoman Leslie Hanafin said the Hermitage could have asked for authorization to go ahead with the projects that didn't require additional wetland impacts and wildlife habitat studies during the appeal process.

Because The Hermitage missed that deadline, Hanafin wrote, the commission was unable address the issues now.

Hanafin also said the commission declined to accelerate the filing deadlines due to the "confusion inherent in the combined motion."

Barnes met with state officials recently and he says he thought there was support for an expedited schedule.

"We've got projects that are not in the wetlands. They're not involved with the environment. They're well outside any area with any issues," Barnes said. "We have people who want to work. So it's frustrating to have to close down part of the operation and lay people off."

Barnes also said the tough winter had an impact on the Hermitage's plans.

He says the company hoped to sell 300 memberships in the exclusive resort, and only was able to sell about half that number due to the snowless winter.

The company may have to sell off some of its land in Dover and Wilmington to raise cash.

"We need money in our bank to keep these operations going," he said. "These delays have cost us a lot of money. We counted on these projects to pay our payroll. Now we're going to have to sell off this land just to keep going."

Howard Weiss-Tisman is Vermont Public’s southern Vermont reporter, but sometimes the story takes him to other parts of the state.
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