Workforce Housing Engineering Report

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  1. Dear Members of The Senior and Affordable Housing Committee,
    I am responding to the letter I received from you regarding the planned Senior/Low Income housing proposed in Post Mills. I have a number of concerns.
    I know the property has a deed on it which allow for a subdivision of only two lots as my parents are the forward thinking people that deeded the property that way. They were stewards of the land. I imagine the town has hired a lawyer to find a way to get around the deed. I’m also quite sure you were confident that I (and my sister) do not have the funds to defend the deed legally. I know that my parents understood that the deed might not hold up forever. It was possible for someone to come along and be able to undo what they had hoped to do. However, I’m very certain they did not think that the town that they loved and made their home for 80+ years would be the entity that would undo their efforts to help maintain the character, charm, beauty of their beloved Post Mills. This is very distressing and disappointing.
    You see, my parents, like my Mother’s parents (Glen and Marion Aldrich) who owned the property before them realized the importance of open spaces – of pasture land, agricultural land, land that is not developed. My parents when they inherited the land could have chopped this land into many building lots and probably made a pretty good sum of money, but knew there was more intrinsic value to keeping the lot whole.
    The plan posted on your website looks like a development you would find in many suburban communities, not like rural Vermont. It really is not in character with Post Mills or the rest of the Thetford villages for that matter.
    Your letter says that you feel that this property is the best available for this project. I’d like to know why you feel that way. It doesn’t seem like a place for seniors. There is nothing else there. I know it is tough in Thetford as there is so little commercial property, but wouldn’t someplace where seniors could walk to the store, post office, and other services be a better choice? I would imagine that not everyone who lives in this development would have a car.
    I would also like to turn this around a bit and ask if is this the best use of this piece of property. I would contend that it is not. Currently there is state wide interest in keeping as much land available for food production as possible, especially with the current issues surrounding the weaknesses in the national food chain. This movement is encouraging that lands be preserved in an effort to increase food production regionally (New England) and less reliant on the national food supply. We should be preserving these spaces that can be used as pasture lands or farming and this would be in line with the current thinking of the state. Once these areas are developed with the population density that this proposal promotes, they are lost for other uses forever. I believe that Thetford’s town plan not only recommends pursuing policies and actions to accommodate affordable housing, but there is part of the plan that also encourages the preservation of agricultural lands.
    It would be a great place also for a solar array given the openness on the property and the sun it receives. What I’m saying is that this land is suitable for many things. I’m sure there are places in town that are only suited for residential growth and do not have the potential for food or energy production.
    I believe that one concern that the regional planning commission (TRORC) had was the potential for sprawl in the corridor from Route 113 down to the lake along routes 244 and West Fairlee Road. This concern seems very real to me. The “race track” property, the airport, the Hadlock Property, the LaRiviere Farm, several properties owned by Fred Budzyn are all parcels that could be subdivided into many small building lots should their current owners decide to sell them. I can envision a scenario when the whole rural character along route 244 is forever changed. Vermont’s strongest asset is its natural beauty and we should preserve that.
    I have concerns too about the wildlife that make that field part of their homes. In the last few years we have witnessed a mother fox and her kits there and deer and turkeys frequent this pasture as well.
    Other concerns include: what effect will this development will have on property values in the area? What long term consequences there will be on the town budget and the town tax rate? (I do understand that federal funding is available for this development, but assume that there will be expenses in the short and long term that will not be covered by grants.)

    Peter Estes

    1. Good morning Peter,
      Thank you for your information, comments and concerns.
      We will be discussing your comments at our next meeting on June 3 at 7:00 pm.
      I will post a zoom link to our meeting shortly.

      Mark

  2. I am purchased my home on Lakeshore Rd in August 2019 and feel hypocritical to speak out against this project since based on the notes posted here, the town was already exploring the option to purchase the subject property. However, having lived in the area for almost a year, I hope the town considers the following:

    1) Traffic: Rural dirt roads off of 244 including Crosst St and Lakeshore already get larger than normal amounts of traffic from drivers cutting through to connecting streets. I am concerned about how the addition of 12-32 cars in the area will impact this even more. I did not see a traffic study in the engineer report and hope that the town would produce one before purchasing the property. At a minimum additional signage should be put in place and tenants should be discourage the use of these rural dirt roads as cut through’s to and from 244/113.

    2) The town should explore the option of a public drinking water well at the proposed site (Depending on interest from the surrounding residents). With the discovery of PFA’s at the Post Mills landfill it will be important to the residents of Post Mills to have clean and regularly tested drinking water. I would also allow more options to homeowners when replacing their septic systems on the smaller lots around the lake. If a public drinking water well is not feasible, at least test for PFA’s and share the results with the community regularly.

    3) Allow residents of Thetford to privately increase affordable/senior housing and not just rely on the town to do so. This can be done by allowing AirBnB’s, tiny homes, and in-law apartments to be built on private properties. Allowing a homeowner to build a small studio to rent for additional income or Seniors to live in/on the property of their relatives would be an example. This would provide affordable housing easier way and be quicker to scale than the town being on the hook for $1M+ complex they have to maintain/manage that only gains 12-16 units.

    1. Christopher,
      Thank you.
      We will discuss your comments at our next Senior and Affordable Housing Committee meeting on Wednesday June 3 at 7:00pm.
      I will be sending out a Zoom link to our meeting shortly.

      Mark

  3. We are submitting these comments as homeowners that would be affected by the multi-family housing development. Our primary concerns with this project are regarding surface drainage modifications and groundwater resources. In formulating these concerns we consulted with our son, Noah, who is an aquatic resources scientist in Colorado with more than 10 years of experience with a water engineering firm and who now works with a nationwide environmental consulting firm. Noah spent much of the past 35 summers at our seasonal cottage in Post Mills, and he lived year-round in Post Mills for two years following graduation from college. He reviewed the engineering report and is very familiar with the issues that concern us.

    1) Our cottage is located along the drainage path that leaves the subject property and conveys surface runoff toward Lake Fairlee. One aspect of the engineering report for the project warrants revision–the drainage path is construed by the Town’s consultant as discharging to Lake Fairlee. This is actually incorrect, water in this drainage swale usually infiltrates into the areas labeled as “vernal pools” between Lakeshore Drive and Highway 244, with occasional flow under Lakeshore Drive and onto our property during especially wet episodes. The episodes of flow onto our property are sufficiently infrequent that they have not created wetlands on our property nor are they a serious nuisance. We are concerned that the proposed development of the property as multi-family housing would result in higher rates of runoff from that site, exceeding the infiltration capacity of the vernal pools and making flow onto our property a more regular occurrence. This additional flow would be a nuisance–it would create a stagnant pool between our cottage and detached garage, as well as along the border between our property and the adjacent property owned by Ken and Vicki French, with expected mosquito and odor issues. It could also result in the loss of land available for gardens and lawn. Additionally, we are concerned that the flows could result in new wetland areas that would create a regulatory encumbrance on our property. Accordingly, to avoid harming our property, we would expect that the Town would need to implement storm water detention at the project that would capture all runoff events during storms up to the 5-year event, as well as during prolonged seasons of high precipitation.

    2) The homes in this neighborhood primarily use groundwater wells for in-home potable water supplies. Our well is 550 feet deep and has a measured flow of 4 gallons per minute, but it has run dry during droughts. We therefore are concerned that construction of multiple wells to support multi-family housing would put the water supply for our cottage at risk during more frequent dry periods. We would add that several other wells near the proposed development have even less water flow capacity. Accordingly, we request that the Town conduct a groundwater supply study to evaluate the underlying aquifer and its ability to support the projected demands associated with this project, and that it should also take into account the potential effects on availabilities for future development in the area. This study should include well pumping studies to evaluate aquifer draw-down and the communication between wells in the area.

    Lastly, we would like to comment on an aspect of the proposed development that does not directly affect our property but should be a concern for all Thetford residents and property owners. Specifically, for development to proceed on the proposed site, the Town will have to violate the terms of the restrictive covenant that Pete and Verna Estes placed on the deed in 2004. Doing so would call into question the validity of any similar existing and future covenants created by landowners to preserve natural or agricultural features of their property from development. In addition to betraying the wishes of the donors and their family, such an action by the Town could have chilling effects on the work of land trusts and other conservation entities.

  4. Jane and Bob,
    Thank you.
    We will be discussing your thoughts at our next meeting scheduled for Wednesday June 10 at 7:00pm.
    I hope you will join us via zoom. I will send out a zoom invite on the Thetford list serve for tomorrow.

    Mark

  5. Just learned about this meeting this morning and I’m certainly 100% against this I would like to give you all my reasons don’t know if I can get on Zoom and download it and be ready for this but I’ll get it off to you within the next day or two my biggest concern is that when Pete Estes was alive he guaranteed my wife and I when I wanted to buy that land that I didn’t have to worry because it would be never more than two houses this seems to have changed and we’re happy to go to court and explain this to a judge we also have a lot of reasons for the whole neighborhood and the town of Thetford and the towns around us after almost 50 years of buying and selling in the real estate business this is one of the ones that seems the craziest for all and 120 years or more as the B&B was run as a mainstay for the camps around the lake and for the airport for hot air ballooning I hope that I will be again someday and all the weddings it seems like not the right thing we certainly have concerns about the traffic the noise the distancing of the people at these times it’s pretty scary I feel the values of the properties and what’s going on in the real estate market for the next 5 to 9 years we should be helping other people to sell their properties and helping to lower the taxes for the people that are here worker concerned about who’s going to operate this place weather there 2 family 3 family and if it’s legal now or going to be legal later devaluing many of the properties in his area nevermind the poor deer and turkeys that we watch on a daily basis out our windows to be gone we don’t even have cell service in this area I think we oughta be discussing that I think we should be talking about taxes and helping the people that are here and what’s here my wife and I will be happy to speak later and what’s going on with the beach they won’t even have a place to go swimming we like to go put 64 mannequins in that property so you can see what it will look like nevermind the housing the driveways the cars so thank you this is just a little bit of what we’re thinking please have anyone call us at 8:02 3 3 3 402 5 will be happy to discuss the future and prepare whatever we have to do

  6. Re: Consideration of the purchase of Tax Map 20, Lot 20-50.2 by the Town of Thetford for future affordable housing project.

    As the owner and resident of the former Aldrich Farm (Tax Map 20, Lot 20-21-18) I have some concerns and strong reservations regarding the proposed development.

    Via your latest ZOOM conference of June 10, I’ve learned that the current property owner has removed or released the deed restrictions. I find it inconceivable that the Town of Thetford by way of Selectboard and The Senior and Affordable Housing Committee would violate terms and conditions of the deed covenant. “This easement shall run with the land and shall be binding…”. Please explain how a legally binding agreement can be so easily dismissed. The proposal forwarded by SAHC is in complete disregard and disrespect of the intent of Henry (Pete) and Verna Estes to preserve the open characteristics of the property.

    The site analysis states “water supply appears to be the most limiting factor to the number of units the site can support”. Our household water supply is piped from a dug shallow well in the cellar. This well has never run dry. I recall neighbors with deep wells reporting low or no water capacity during summer droughts; this condition extended to Robinson Hill Road. Concerns that the water needs of the proposed development will adversely impact my well and recharge capability would require mitigation. I require a reliable water source for my domestic and farm use. Will the town be able to obtain the financial resources to provide a community public water supply for Post Mills or the adjacent neighbors to proposed project should it negatively impact existing wells?

    What assurances are there that the volume of sewage and stormwater discharge to be generated from the proposed development will not contaminate surrounding wells? Is the proposed buffer zone adequate in these soils? Adjacent to wells, wetlands and Lake Fairlee? Perennially, my sump pump works overtime to clear the rising level of water entering the cellar, a result of snowmelt and spring rains in a high-water table basin. With the proposed site work there will be greater soil compaction and impermeable surface coverage resulting in less water holding capabilities and greater runoff. Where will this excess discharge be directed? Stagnant detention ponds? According to the engineering report, “Stormwater management does not appear to be a significant site constraint.” It is a constraint and a threat from my vantage point.

    The feasibility report indicated that Act 250 review and Land Use Permit from VT Natural Resources Board would be required for scope of project. Out of ten criteria under Act 250, only one was covered in report: soil assessment. The site analysis confirms that the soil type, WnB, is of statewide farmland importance and that on-site mitigation for this agricultural site requires that the project preserve twice the amount of agricultural soils that are disturbed. This land has been in continual agricultural use and stewardship for 200 years. How do you mitigate the loss of a meadow you cannot replace?

    The property is an important wildlife habitat and travel corridor. Every spring, wood frogs and peepers announce winter is over, later in May we watch whitetail doe and fawns, gray and red foxes; we’ve had bear and moose travel across Rte. 244 through our property. Eagles and herons have perched on the wolf pines that line the road. Waterfowl use the wetlands during their migrations in spring and fall. Some years we’re inundated with wild turkey families. Turtles cross Rte. 244 to lay their eggs in the sandy loam and the skunks, raccoons and crows have a meal. With the proposed development and increased human presence and pressure, I expect that we’ll have less opportunities to observe wildlife (unless you count roadkill).

    It was disappointing to read in two transcribed minutes (either Selectboard or Planning) the statements from an SAHC member promoting the scenic values of the ridgetop proposed as the site for the AT&T antenna and his opposition to the tower placement, but no such comments regarding scenic values associated with the Post Mills site. Is the committee imposing double standards? As the Conservation Committee is charged in their by-laws to protect and conserve the natural and social resources of Thetford, they should submit recommendations regarding the Post Mills site.

    Over the last 15 years, what criteria were established by SAHC for determining sites that potentially would be suitable for development? How have these criteria changed now that Senior Housing is no longer deemed the priority?

    How do costs figure into the equation? $80,000 + has gone into purchase price of the 7.8-acre property. According to the feasibility report, “conceptual site development construction cost is approximately $1,000,000, or $85,000 per unit”. That’s only for site work preparation. How much more for construction of units, legal fees, “soft” development fees, permitting fees, etc.??? Costs appear to be surmounting the “affordability” level.

    It has been implied by SAHC that the development would be for young adults (but no longer for seniors) who grew up in Thetford but “cannot afford the typical Thetford housing costs”. This statement is not accurate. As the presumed developer and housing authority, Twin Pines Housing Trust would vet housing applicants, not SAHC, nor any other Town of Thetford agents.

    As Peter Estes stated in his letter of May 19, the development plans are not in character with Post Mills and resemble developments that you can see in many suburban areas. Most Twin Pines Housing options are close to public transportation, jobs, shopping, and professional services to reduce the need for private transportation. Post Mills lacks the services and infrastructure to support a project of the scale as depicted in the site feasibility analysis.

    The property is best left undeveloped at this time and considered a hedge fund for the future.

  7. After reading through these comments I’d like to say that I thoroughly agree with every single objection that people have made about this multi-family housing development. As Mr. Budzyn pointed out, almost all of the frontage on the lake is private and there will be no available lake access for these new families, yet they will see it daily. On so many levels the size and character of the whole project is totally inappropriate and destructive to this village, and is being imposed without any sensitivity or care for the people or the wildlife living here. It will permanently mar the beauty and habitat that both residents and visitors love in Post Mills, resulting in profound unhappiness among residents and huge contention within the town. This is precisely why the Estes family created a covenant to protect the land. It’s a concept that has no business being implemented and I can’t imagine why you’d want to be responsible for it.

  8. As a life-long resident of Post Mills and friends of Pete and Verna Estes and their children, after reading the covenant on the deed from Pete and Verna Estes regarding this parcel of land, we strongly believe that the Town must do the Right Thing and abide by that covenant. We believe that everyone in this town would expect that from our town.

    Melanie & Larry Hart

  9. Being Post Mills residents most of our lives and knowing the Estes family, we want to address the curruent situation regarding the covenant that Pete and Verna Estes left in their deed to protect the field when it was sold. We heard that the Town of Thetford had purchased the property and had the covenant removed through an attorney in order proceed with other plans for town use. We want to convey a solid and heartfelt need to respect the wishes and legacy of our community members. We didn’t need to know all the particulars of the project after hearing the covenant had been removed/broken that was placed in their deed for just this reason. Let’s make the correct decisison to honor the deeded covenant and wishes of Pete and Verna Estes and family. Their land – their deeded covenant – their wishes to be carried out after death to a community that they gave their life to.

  10. I am stunned that our town government would spend taxpayer dollars without any public hearing, environmental impact study or consideration of the clearly intended use of the land. It would not be possible to find a less appropriate location for this type of development. Rural, quiet, beautiful, near residential housing and steps to the lake. Removing a covenant may be possible under some interpretation of law but it is certainly unethical. This is a divisive poorly conceived idea. There will be substantial additional costs to the taxpayers as a result as well. Please reconsider and let’s work together to find a site nearer services, health care and the highway. There are many more appropriate uses for this parcel.

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