By Ed Sutherland-
Construction of Northfield’s new home for Green Mountain Family Practice (GMFP) is in a race with the weather. In the wake of a long process of local permitting and responding to neighborhood concerns, the 10,000-square-foot project on Crescent Avenue may not begin construction until Sept. 24.
Although Vermont granted Act 250 approval Aug. 25, shovels cannot be lifted until after a 30-day comment period, “so the permit may not be effective until near the end of September,” Northfield Zoning Administrator Michele Braun told The Bridge.
The project, which will include a 52-car parking lot, an outdoor HVAC fixture, all-night illumination and a stormwater runoff pond, will use part of the outdoor recreation area owned by Norwich University. Norwich will retain the land, leasing it to Central Vermont Medical Center (CVMC), which owns GMFP. Contractor E.F. Wall of Barre will own the building, leasing it to CVMC.
Wall had wanted construction to begin September 19 to avoid winter delays and a postponement of the hoped-for June 1, 2015, opening. The builder referred The Bridge’s questions about construction dates to Norwich University. In turn, Norwich deferred to CVMC.
“There are a lot of aspects to the Act 250 process, and we are simply waiting to receive the final approvals,” Susan Kruthers, CVMC vice president of community relations and development, told The Bridge. “Our original plan was to start construction sometime in the middle to end of September, and we feel we are still on schedule.”
Pressed on specifics, Kruthers said, “Middle to end of Sept. is as specific as I can be at this time.” She said the clinic will employ 14 workers.
“The permits associated with the new construction of the Green Mountain Practice facility located in Northfield have been issued,” Department of Environmental Conservation reviewer Christina Clark stated in an email. However, an older stormwater runoff permit needing administrative amendment may pose its own problems for the construction start date.
“Unfortunately, this permit will also need to go on a 30-day public notice period, due to the fact that some of the previously issued impervious surfaces that were covered under the original permit will now be treated under the new Operational State Stormwater Permit,” she explained. That 30-day period, like the Act 250 public comment period, will go until September 24.
In late April, Act 250 Assistant Coordinator Susan Baird described the timeline leading to a September ground-breaking as “tight but doable.”