Home News and Features City Council Approves “Actionable Plan” for Country Club Road Project

City Council Approves “Actionable Plan” for Country Club Road Project

picture of golf greens at country club road
Country Club Road Spring 2023. Photo by Sharon Allen
Although questions persisted about the city’s approach to planning development of the Country Club Road project, the city council accepted the phase one report prepared by White + Burke and VBH consultants on Wednesday, June 28.

The approval means that city staff will begin the more detailed research and planning process that will better address the persisting questions about the scope and ultimate feasibility of developing housing and recreational facilities on the site, said City Planning Director Michael Miller.

Councilor Tim Heney asked, “What is our role?” noting that the councilors haven’t had an opportunity to discuss the project among themselves. City Manager Bill Fraser proposed that the regular Aug. 23 meeting of the council be a workshop on the Country Club Road project. The suggestion was welcomed by the councilors, who expressed several continuing concerns about the status of the planning, including the title of the phase one report.

The Council’s Concerns

The very title of the phase one report, “Master Plan,” concerned Councilor Sal Alfano. “It implies this is the plan, which I fear could be misleading to the public when it’s really just the beginning of planning,” Alfano said.

City Planner Michael Miller replied that the term ‘master plan’ is a standard usage among planners and should not be taken as defining the details of the project, adding that city staffers will now begin the “short term actions” to research leading questions and to identify prospective developers for the project. 

Mayor Jack McCullough noted that the phase one report is a conceptual response to the public’s interest in creating much-needed housing and recreational facilities and was not intended to “provide answers” to the questions raised. Councilors unanimously supported changing the title of the phase one report to “Actionable Plan.”

Councilor Cary Brown said that the phase one report “is a plan to do more planning. We need to have a conversation among the councilors.” 

Heney underscored the complexity of the questions that remain to be answered: management of prime agricultural soils on the site, secondary road access, provision for sewer and water infrastructure, traffic control at the intersection of the existing access road with U.S. Route 2, appropriate zoning revisions, meeting the requirements of a TIF (Tax Incremental Funding), and a sufficiently defined RFP to attract developers to the site. 

“I would prefer to see a phased plan of development, starting with housing near the existing structures before building infrastructure out across the property,” Heney said.

Public Comment

Steven Whitaker was concerned that phase one includes site plans for structures “without addressing potential constraints or the cost.” He also asked, “How much have the consultants been paid?” (Miller subsequently confirmed that the charges from the three firms billing under the contract — White+Burke, VHB, and Black River Design — have been within the $148,125 amount of the agreement).

Resident Kim Ward encouraged that further planning include the option for co-housing and added that “Montpelier has plenty of places to recreate.”

Richard Brock asked that planners and the community keep in mind that the rail tracks crossing the existing access road to the property “is a siding,” not a through line.

Nat Winthrop, a member of the HUB group that proposed leasing some of the property for a private/public recreation partnership when it was first purchased by the city, was surprised that Miller was envisioning a ground-breaking on the site in two years. “I’ve had the impression that three to five years is what it’s going to take.” Miller, citing his personal experience with similar community projects in Barre, replied that pursuing an “aggressive timeline” is both doable and realistic.

– 30s