BERLIN — A tire service chain’s plans to raze and redevelop an iconic Barre-Montpelier Road restaurant are picking up speed and a proposal to move the state police barracks from Middlesex to Berlin isn’t far behind.

Those were among the more notable updates Zoning Administrator Tom Badowski delivered to a Public Works Board that couldn’t muster a quorum for its Monday night meeting.

Badowski told the board that representatives of Town Fair Tire Centers didn’t encounter any significant speed bumps during last week’s virtual hearing on their proposal to acquire and demolish the locally owned Steak House Restaurant in order to make room for one of their tire sales and service buildings.

Though no permit has yet been issued, Badowski said none of the conditions discussed by the board were considered problematic and representatives of Town Fair Tire Centers have signaled they plan to proceed with the project.

“It looks like once they get all their permits, they are going to exercise their option (to buy the Steak House),” he said of Town Fair Tire.

The Steak House, which opened in 1972, closed due to concerns about COVID-19 in late November. Owners of the rustic restaurant authorized Town Fair Tire Centers to apply for the permit that calls for its demolition.

According to Badowski, the tire company, has already requested a reduction in the town-approved sewer allocation for the property from 1,250 gallons per day to 300 gallons per day.

The current allocation is suitable to handle wastewater generated by the kitchen of a busy restaurant and the restrooms used by its staff and customers. The proposed 7,270 square foot tire service center won’t have a kitchen generating wastewater and a more modest restroom demand.

The reduction in allocation will represent a cost savings for Town Fair Tire if the deal goes through. Badowski said it would also enable the town to recover 1,250 gallons of capacity at Montpelier’s wastewater treatment plant that it can allocate to other projects in town.

Projects like the state police barracks planned on Paine Turnpike North.

First pitched to a receptive Select Board last September, plans to convert the former Midstate Regional Library into a state-of-the-art police barracks, complete with two holding cells, are receiving renewed attention.

Badowski told board members he expects to receive requests for both water and sewer allocations for the project early next month with preliminary drawings to shortly follow.

According to Badowski, DeWolfe Engineering has started the initial design phase and is working on an application for a permit that will likely be the subject of a hearing before the Development Review Board later this spring.

State officials had initially hoped the project would be under construction by now and completed in time to move from the aging Middlesex barracks to the newly renovated facility in Berlin by the end of the year.

That timetable has slipped some, but based on Badowski’s conversations with DeWolfe Engineering, there is renewed interest in expediting the project located on a newly installed stretch of municipal sewer line not far from Exit 7 of Interstate 89.

The strategically located state-owned building was the decades-long home of the regional library and has been dormant for some time.

Constructed in 1970, the 10,618-square-foot building includes a 1,720-square-foot addition that was built in 1975 and is located on 8.2 acres of state-owned land.

One of 10 State Police “field stations,” the existing barracks on Route 2 in Middlesex is smaller, older and functionally obsolete from a public safety standpoint.

Converting the building in Berlin into the next field station, will allow the current barracks to operate without interruption in Middlesex. The barracks serves all of Washington County, as well as the Orange County towns of Orange, Washington and Williamstown.

That won’t change when its address does, but the Berlin project will involve significant interior renovations, a facade change and possibly a small addition.

But for a scheduling change, Badowski would have briefed board members on a hearing on the town’s pending request for a New Town Center designation Monday night. The hearing before the Vermont Downtown Development Board was initially set for Monday, but will now be held on March 22 at 1 p.m.

The product of a consultant-led process and years of planning, the application for New Town Center designation, as well as an adjacent Neighborhood Development Area, are viewed as a way to facilitate development in the area just off exit 7.

The proposed New Town Center is anchored by the Berlin Mall and the Central Vermont Medical Center campuses, and the Neighborhood Development Area includes the properties along Paine Turnpike North, including the building that will eventually house the state police barracks.


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