The letter, addressed to the office of Hermitage attorney Bob Fisher, was drafted following a meeting between Fisher and the planning commission on August 4, at which Fisher gave a presentation of the master plan including the club’s golf course, airport, and Haystack Mountain ski resort. According to planning commission chair Wendy Manners, the Hermitage intended to send in the Act 250 application this week, a timetable which provided no time for an appropriate review.
“He (Fisher) explained to us what he saw as key highlights of the differences in the master plan,” said Manners. “We talked about how we felt about making the statement they asked for, and our decision was we didn’t have the time. It’s an extensive town plan, and the changes to the master plan are extensive. We did not feel that in that one week and one meeting we had time to draw that kind of conclusion.”
In the letter, the commission said that the presentation was valuable, but the scope of the plan changes, unresolved regulatory questions, and the extensive nature of the town plan did not provide sufficient information or time for review. “The information we received will provide a foundation from which we can prepare comments for a future hearing date,” said the letter.
Manners said there were issues to be resolved about grandfathering previous permits, and according to town zoning administrator Craig Ohlson, those regulatory questions include issues with the location of bear and bird habitats. Vice chair Lynne Matthews said she would like to see fewer schematics from the Hermitage but rather an outline of the changes to the master plan in writing.
Planning commission selectboard liaison Susie Haughwout said that she didn’t believe that was something the Hermitage was required to provide. “I’m not sure anyone owes you an iteration of changes,” said Haughwout. “What they owe you and what’s owed to the public is a look at the last permitted master plan (permitted in 2005), and a look at the new master plan. I don’t think they have to write you up ‘This is what the old one says, this is what new one says.’”
Local business owner Cliff Duncan asked if the commission planned to comment on the fire agreement between the Hermitage and the town, which will honor an agreement from previous Haystack owners, and donate funds toward a firefighting apparatus. Duncan asked that any such language be purposefully vague as to what the money could be used for. Manners said the commission would not comment on that issue at this time due to the number of “unknowns,” and “technicalities” involved with the Hermitage grandfathering the agreement into the new master plan.
“The purpose of tonight’s meeting is to agree on a letter to the Hermitage saying ‘We need more information,’ and put us on a track for exploring more,” said Manners.
According to Ohlson, the planning commission and selectboard intend to have a joint meeting to discuss matters further, as well as a meeting with Hermitage representatives to have an in-depth look at the plans.