MONTPELIER — A controversial plan to build a public parking garage in the Capital City was approved with conditions by the Development Review Board in a written decision released Thursday.
The DRB also issued conditional approvals to sub-divide the site on which a hotel will be built and allow off-site parking for the hotel.
The applicants — the city of Montpelier and the Bashara family — must submit final plans that meet conditions attached to the DRB’s decisions to receive the necessary permits. The decisions are subject to a 30-day appeal period following the date of the DRB decisions and a 15-day appeal period after permits are issued.
The projects are part of a proposal by the Bashara family to build an 81-room Hampton Inn & Suites hotel and garage on nearly 3 acres of land behind the Capitol Plaza Hotel on State Street. The Basharas asked the city to partner with them and build the garage. The city agreed but increased the size of the garage from 230 to 348 spaces. Voters approved a $10.5 million bond for the garage project in the November election.
Officials involved in the project welcomed Thursday’s DRB decisions.
“I’m glad to see this project continue to take steps towards completion. Exciting things are happening in Montpelier. Our downtown is going to be an even more vibrant place with all the property improvements we’ll see going up in the near future,” said Mayor Anne Watson.
“I am pleased that the DRB issued a thorough decision addressing the many issues raised during the application process,” said City Manager Bill Fraser. “We look forward to continuing with this project.”
Hotel proprietor Fred Bashara said he was pleased with the decision, and noted that there had also been some opposition to the projects, particularly the garage because of its size and impact architecturally and on the nearby riverfront.
It has resulted in residents filing a petition to gain party status to the application process, contending that there had not been enough time for public input on the design of the garage and its impact on surroundings. The petition alleges that the project, if approved, would “not be in accord” with the city’s master plan or zoning regulations.
The city is also waiting on an expedited Act 250 review of the projects on Jan. 16.
In a separate request, resident Alan Goldman, through his attorneys, has also asked the Act 250 District 5 Environmental Commission for a jurisdictional opinion review of all projects within the city’s Tax Increment Financing District, including the garage project, because their total acreage was more than 10 acres, which triggers oversight under the state land use law. The city has disputed Goldman’s claims.
The DRB decisions deal with a host of planning requirements for the projects. The hotel project already has a permit but final plans that meet conditions must still be filed.
The DRB decision on the garage found that the design needs to meet conditions on erosion control, stormwater management, security cameras, landscape maintenance, lighting consistent with security requirements, and obtain flood plain permits and minimize the impact of construction. The city will also be required to do a follow-up traffic study a year after the project is completed. The DRB found that there was no requirement under zoning regulations to place solar panels on top of the structure, as first proposed to power much of the garage’s electrical needs, except for elevators.