Health Center seeks new site

ARLINGTON - The Battenkill Valley Health Center is one step closer to obtaining a green light to open their facility on town owned property formerly occupied by a trailer park along Route 7A.

On Thursday, Aug. 31, the site plan for the new health center was presented in front of the Arlington Planning commission. While the site plan has not yet been approved, the planning commission will hold a special meeting Wednesday, Sept. 10 at 5:30 p.m. That way, they can approve the site plan before the project goes before the Zoning Board to seek a permit later that evening.

In an interview after the meeting, Dan Barber, chairman of the planning commission, said there were five or six items missing from the site plan. They were verbally presented at the meeting, but needed to be added to the plan itself. The missing information included property dimensions, setbacks and more information about screening and what trees would be removed and which would stay.

"Nothing critical was missing, there just wasn't enough information," he said.

David Frothingham of DeWolfe Engineering Associates in Montpelier, presented the project to the board. He said it will feature an 8,000 square foot building in the front of the property, with parking in the middle and a 5,000 square foot building in the back. Frothingham said the building in the back of the property will not be built yet, but it is a future plan that they added to the site plan, for a full idea of what the property could look like.

"We're just putting it out there. . . it's a part of the plan, we want to make sure it all works together," he said. "Even if we don't build it for five or 10 years."

The site will feature 65 parking spaces. The planning commission wanted to know if there would be more handicapped parking because of the nature of the site.

Grace Gilbert-Davis, the chief executive director of the health center, said in offices like these it is very common to have 15 minute parking for visitors to the health center that may not have a handicap permit, but need some assistance at the time of their visit. Along with the parking spaces, the board wanted to know if ambulances would be dropping off at the center.

"No. . . but there is access for an ambulance in the main driveway," she said.

Some of the abutting landowners had questions, about how their property would be screened, as well as if there would be any impact on their water.

Frothingham said there wouldn't be any impact on their water and Gilbert-Davis said they would work with the property owners to make sure their property was screened in a way they wanted.

The planning commission asked for some changes to be made to the plan before they could approve it. Frothingham said the changes, which just added some more detail to the plan, would be sent to the planning commission next week.

The town has approved a temporary sign for the property, but Keith Squires, chair of the Arlington select board chairman, said he wanted Battenkill Valley Health Center to wait until they received their permits from the ZBA.

The new health clinic recently was designated as a federally qualified community health center. Until now, Bennington County was the only one in the state without such a federally designated clinic, which allows such facilities to offer an expanded range of services beyond what its forerunner, the Arlington Family Practice, was able to, and from where it is currently operating. The designation also allows for increased federal reimbursement rates to make the services more affordable to individuals across the entire county, according to its website.


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