WILMINGTON >> Attorneys for the Hermitage Club and town signed an agreement as a way to avoid an appeal hearing in Environmental Court.
"This is a good outcome for both parties," said Town Manager Scott Murphy. "On the Hermitage side, it allows them to continue with the construction process of building a 90-plus unit hotel. It allows them to move forward without the delay that an appeal hearing in Environmental Court would take. The town will receive the benefit of possibly locating a fire ladder truck at the to-be-built maintenance garage. It also allows us the flexibility to house it elsewhere if it is in our best interest to do so."
According to Murphy, the agreement was an effort by both parties to meet a condition requiring the company to build or find housing for a ladder truck coming to the town's fire department in anticipation of the hotel development. Signing the document were the Hermitage Club's attorney Bob Fisher and Wilmington's lawyer Lance Shader.
According to the Hermitage Club, the company filed a stipulation and settlement with the Superior Court Environmental Division on Monday, Dec. 7. On Wednesday, the court issued an order allowing plans to move forward.
"We are gratified that this issue is coming to a logical conclusion and workable compromise," said Hermitage Club Founder and President Jim Barnes in a statement. "We are glad to be able to help provide housing for the ladder truck, and believe that this is the best solution."
The hotel was approved by the DRB in September, however, the condition was contested by the company in a motion for reconsideration at the local level and then an appeal to Environmental Court.
This marks a second agreement between the town and the Hermitage Club. The first — originally referenced by the company as reasoning not to include the permit's condition calling for a facility for the ladder truck — requires the Hermitage Club to fund approximately half the cost of the vehicle or $300,000 as the need is due to the company's plans for development. Part of that agreement let the company off the hook for future payments to the town for 10 years. The DRB was not a party to discussions leading up to it being signed and said the agreement could not affect their decision-making.
The new agreement signed Wednesday at the Selectboard meeting says the company should use all due diligence to insure a bay in the maintenance facility is ready by the time the truck is delivered; the bay should provide a minimum interior length of 50 feet and a minimum interior height of 12 feet; the truck bay door should be electrically operated; all bay access doors should have locks with keys held only by the Hermitage Club and town; the location and design should conform to the company's master plan approved by the state and town while complying with all zoning regulations of the town; and unrestricted access should be permitted with ingress and egress on all days and hours of the year.
According to the agreement, the Hermitage Club will be responsible for maintaining the access road and parking area serving the bay including snow removal. The company will pay for all expenses involved with the bay's structural and mechanical maintenance, repair and replacements except for equipment and fixtures installed by the town. Also covered by the company is an electrical service with a heating system.
"In the event that the town obtains another facility suitable for the permanent garaging of the said fire truck, the town shall promptly extinguish its license by written instrument," the document stated, referring to the license expected to come within 10 days of approval of the stipulation and settlement. "In all other respects, the DRB decision and order dated Sept. 2 ... shall remain unchanged and shall become the order and conditions for the permits for the construction of the proposed hotel."
A committee is currently looking at possible places to relocate Wilmington's police and fire departments. Both stations are downtown and in an area prone to flooding. An update on the committee's progress is expected at the next Selectboard meeting on Wednesday.
The Hermitage Club expects construction on Hotel Hermitage in 2016 and 2017.