One of the firms hired by the city of Montpelier to help determine what should happen to the 133-acre former Elks Club property purchased by the city last summer has prepared three conceptual site plans for discussion at the city council meeting Jan. 18, according to Josh Jerome, the city’s community and economic development specialist. The city is now referring to the property as the “Country Club Road site.”
Of the plans, one maximizes recreation, one maximizes housing, and one blends the two, Jerome said. The plans will indicate the number of proposed housing units and the mix of multi-family properties, duplexes, and single-family homes. Elements of any of the plans could end up in the final master plan, which will be voted on by the city council and completed as soon as June, but possibly later, Jerome said.
Jerome said the plans developed by civil engineering firm VHB will be available for viewing soon on the city website as well as at city hall and at various locations around Montpelier, including some businesses and schools.
The public will have a chance to offer feedback at three events: a meeting at the site from 10 a.m. to noon on Jan. 28, at a city hall meeting with Zoom access from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Feb. 2, and at a Zoom-only meeting from noon to 2 p.m. on Feb. 9. Similar meetings were held in October and more will be held later on revised plans before a final draft master plan is produced, Jerome said.
According to Montpelier Planning Director Mike Miller, the city’s plan is not to develop any housing itself, but rather to “sell off lots to developers, profit or nonprofit, and let them build housing, subject to restrictions in the master plan.” Local affordable housing developer Downstreet Housing and Community Development told The Bridge it expects to be one of those talking with the city once the master plan is done.
So far, the consultants’ work on the project has not included analysis of traffic flow (including whether a traffic light would be needed on Route 2), sewer and water line upgrades, or soil conditions such as the presence of ledge or pesticide residues at the former golf course, items that the consultants will examine later.
“The first question is how many housing units the master plan will call for,” Miller said. “If it is a lot, then we will look at the barriers, such as whether a second access is needed and whether that could mean a new road through Sabin’s Pasture to create a loop road. If the property is mostly recreation and open space, then maybe one road is enough.”
Miller said the city may seek to create a new Tax Increment Finance (TIF) district — something that requires state approval — in order to finance any needed infrastructure. “We might want one for the former Elks Club or for Sabin’s,” he said.
It does not appear that The HUB, a private group that wanted to build a tennis and pickleball building and operate other recreational facilities on the property, will be doing anything there in the near future.
The city council told the group it did not want to sell or lease land for a tennis facility until after the master plan was completed, but did give the city manager authority to negotiate a short-term lease with The HUB for a digital golf facility and restaurant/bar in a portion of the existing clubhouse building.
A tentative lease agreement was reached with the city manager, but it was rejected by the city council. “My recollection is that council wanted a higher square foot cost, which The HUB eventually said was not tenable, so they walked away from pursuing additional negotiations,” Jerome said.
The city’s purchase of the Country Club Road site was financed with a $2-million bond and $1 million from the city’s recreation funds. The 20-year bond requires $55,000 for the first-year interest payment and approximately $138,406 for the second-year principal and interest payment, with future payments declining each year as the principal is repaid.
Three consultants were hired by the city to help with planning the project, at a total cost of $148,125, according to the city website. They are White + Burke Real Estate Advisors — the project manager — VHB, and Black River Design, which will conduct a feasibility study of the existing clubhouse.