WILMINGTON- A decision on the Hermitage Club’s master permit application is expected “shortly,” according to Gov. Phil Scott’s office.
Hermitage Club officials met with Gov. Scott early last week to discuss their nearly 15-month struggle to get their master plan approved by the District 2 Environmental Commission.
“Gov. Scott’s meeting with the Hermitage Club was productive, as he sought to learn more about its master plan application process and experience,” said Rebecca Kelley, Gov. Scott’s director of communications. “While we can’t comment on specific aspects of the district commission’s review, it is our understanding that the commission will be issuing a decision shortly on this complicated case and the governor shared this information during the meeting.”
Although approval of the master plan isn’t a carte blanche construction permit, it is intended to provide a framework and speedier approval of Act 250 permits for individual projects.
The Hermitage Club filed an application for approval of its master plan in November 2015, after the Windham Regional Commission indicated they wouldn’t continue to give their stamp of approval to ski resort projects without an approved master plan permit. Hermitage Club President James Barnes had anticipated approval of the master plan in time for the 2016 construction season, and was frustrated by delays and requests for more information from the commission that continued throughout the summer and into the fall. At the time, Barnes said the delays had halted work on projects with approved Act 250 permits, and held up the release of $62 million in funding for the development. The pending projects include a condominium hotel at the base area, and about a dozen adjacent condominiums. The master plan includes the construction of additional hotels, condominiums, houses, and townhouses totaling about 400 units, as well as the expansion of snowmaking and ski terrain at the resort.
According to a Hermitage Club release, Barnes focused on the positive aspects of the private resort’s impact on the Deerfield Valley in his meeting with Gov. Scott, calling it “a huge economic boon for the community.”
According to the release, the Hermitage Club has invested nearly $135 million in the region over the last four years. The Club’s total investment in master plan projects is projected to generate $6 million in education taxes annually through 2025, according to an independent growth and fiscal impact analysis compiled for the Hermitage Club. The study estimates that 235 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs will be created through 2025 due to construction. All employment, including construction, club operations, and indirect and induced employment totals, is projected to reach nearly 750 FTE at the plan’s completion in 2025.
“The Hermitage Club is an important part of the southeastern Vermont economy and the successful completion of its master plan review will enable it to continue to expand, providing much-needed employment opportunities in this part of the state,” agreed Kelley.
The resort development has already created an additional $1.3 million in annual property taxes, according to the Hermitage Club, an amount that could reach as much as $15 million per year year in local and state tax revenue once the master plan is completed.
Barnes says development at the resort has also boosted local real estate values, and has already created hundreds of jobs. “Our Act 250 approval means more to the region than just our tax dollars alone; there’s a huge ripple effect throughout southern Vermont,” Barnes said. “This project is simply too valuable to the community to be delayed any longer, and I look forward to the governor’s assistance in seeing it through.”