Two state environmental groups are asking a district environmental commission to dismiss the application for a large development at Exit 4 in Randolph.
In a motion filed this week, Conservation Law Foundation and Vermont Natural Resources Council told the District 3 Environmental Commission that developer Jesse Sammis has, “utterly failed to show that the proposed project meets the clear Act 250 standards for protecting valuable farmland.”
After holding hearings on the proposal, commission members issued a recess order, telling Sammis to submit a more compact plan that protects additional prime agricultural soils on the 172-acre property.
Sandra Levine, an attorney for Conservation Law Foundation, says at this point the proceedings should be concluded, rather than allowing the developer to amend his plan.
“Act 250 provides strong protection and if a project fails to meet those very clear requirements the request should be denied. Allowing a developer to constantly amend a project wastes everybody’s time and money,” says Levine.
Levine says the developer has already had opportunities to respond to the commissions concerns.
Peter Van Oot, an attorney representing Sammis, said his client will "respect the commission's request that we work to make the best plan possible."
The commission has also requested information on other local properties owned by the developer, to determine if they are suitable for some aspects of the Exit 4 plan. Sammis owns a number of Randolph properties, including the 1,300-acre Green Mountain Stock Farm.
The commission’s review of the proposal is limited to the plan’s impact on farmland and it’s compliance with local and regional plans. In the future, specific projects proposed for the development will trigger a full Act 250 review.
The environmental groups see the plan as an important test of farmland preservation under Act 250.
The project has won the approval of the Randolph Development Review Board and the support of the select board.
A recently formed local group, Exit 4 Open Space, opposes the plan, citing the size of the development and concerns over its impact on local businesses.
Another hearing on the plan is scheduled for September 25.
Update 7:34 p.m. This post has been updated to add a comment from attorney Peter Van Oot.