Duncan was joined by Zoar owner Bruce Lessels, who explained the purpose of Zoar’s interest in the location as an “adventure center” for hiking, boating, and biking. Zoar will both sell and rent products, and since none will be used on the property, a recreational permit will not be necessary.
Duncan applied for the building to be granted conditional usage as a place of retail, which he feels, should be grandfathered in, as the building has served in a retail capacity on multiple occasions in the past. DRB chair Nicki Steel said that it was possible that the board would not be required to make a decision on this, as retail could very well be an existing conditional use, and rentals fall under the same category of providing goods and services to the public.
Duncan’s second application was for approval to make changes to the exterior of the building, which falls within the historic district, and thus constitutes a review by the DRB. Duncan’s plans call for moving the front door of the building to the right and installing four double-hung windows to its left. Duncan also plans to do work on the building’s roof, giving it a pitch change. Interior work will include a redesign of the roof supports, as well as a complete floor replacement. “There will be no posts and no partitions, to keep the inside open for however Bruce wants to set up his kiosks and space inside without any limitations,” said Duncan.
The third part of the hearing is where estimates come into play. Duncan’s building is in the flood fringe zone of the village and is therefore subject to certain rules dealing with improvements due to flood damage. If the estimated cost of repairing and improving the building is over 50% of its value, it will be required to undergo more costly flood repairs and improvements within one year, which may include raising the building’s first floor, and performing extensive flood-proofing. If the estimate is under 50%, another set of flood mitigation criteria apply and less costly repairs will need to be performed.
The building is valued at $75,000, according to the town’s lister’s maps, and Duncan’s estimates are just under the 50% cutoff of $37,500. But Duncan believes that the property value, and in turn the value of the building have been undervalued, and he and Lessels have an arm’s length agreement for Lessels to purchase it for $236,000.
“If we bring it back to a place where Bruce feels comfortable giving us $236,000, that clearly shows the building has to be worth more than considered in this application and this is a real challenge.” The DRB decided to recess the hearing to allow Duncan to have the building’s value reappraised.
Speaking as an interested party, Lisa Sullivan, co-chair of Wilmington Works, urged the board to consider the implications of a new business in the village. “I know that it’s not the criteria you’re basing a decision on, but post- Irene redevelopment is critical to the downtown and to property owners and residents,” said Sullivan. “This is not the type of business we’ve had before but it’s the type we would like to see.”
After the DRB makes its decision, all plans regarding renovations in the flood fringe area will need to be approved by the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources. If the application is approved, the ANR will have 30 days to respond with a decision.