Balancing Density, Traffic, Connectivity and Wildlife Opportunities and Challenges for Cider Mill II Development

Home » City » Balancing Density, Traffic, Connectivity and Wildlife Opportunities and Challenges for Cider Mill II Development

Thursday January 18, 2018

Plans are brewing for the Cider Mill II project, and the main topics of conversation include traffic, density, connectivity, and wildlife.

Located in the Southeast Quadrant (SEQ) to the west of Hinesburg Road and south of Butler Farms, Cider Mill II (also known as Phase II), has been part of a larger master plan for years. The Cider Mill I neighborhood sits adjacent to it and is accessible via Dorset Street.

The Development Review Board heard updates at its January 2 meeting. Sketch plan application (#SD-17-20) of JJJ South Burlington LLC proposes to amend a previously-approved 258-unit planned unit development into two phases. The amendment for Phase II (Cider Mill II) requests an increase of 33 units for a total of 142 units. The 142 units will consist of 66 single-family lots, 46 units in two (2) family dwellings, and 30 units of single-family dwellings on a shared lot at 1580 Dorset St. and 1699 Hinesburg Rd.

The master plan is being revised to reflect this as well as provide updates to the roadway layout and other amenities, such as neighborhood parks, a community garden, and a 10-ft wide bike path connecting future riders in the area out to Hinesburg Road, to Cider Mill I, and the southern portion of the development.

The History

In 2007, a master plan was approved for 109 dwelling units in Cider Mill II with the area zoned as Village-Residential reserved for future development. The project received final plat approval status in 2015, but it was later revised in November 2016 when the applicant, JJJ South Burlington LLC, requested a density increase of 58 residential units for a total count of 167 units. Several residents presented density and safety concerns, and the applicant returned in September 2017 with a request for 45 additional units, dropping the total count from 167 to 154 units.

Currently, the project has trimmed down to 142 total units, or 33 additional requested units, and changes have been made, including replacing the loop road with a cul-de-sac, improved recreation path connectivity, and consolidated open spaces.

The Density

This project leverages Transfer Development Rights (TDRs), which allows certain landowners the right to sell (transfer) their development rights (“sending districts”) to developers to work within “receiving districts,” or districts more appropriately designed for higher density development. Neighborhood Residential and Village Residential districts allow for 1.2 units or four units per acre respectively.

The developer submitted legal documents regarding the option to purchase TDRs for Cider Mill I and Cider Mill II up to a maximum of 326 units as part of the master plan approval. The project has 72 units of density secured from the Auclair Farm TDRs, and an additional 26 TDRs will be needed. Documentation will be provided for this prior to being submitted to final plat approval.

The Traffic

How will Cider Mill II impact adjacent intersections and Cider Mill I? Paul O’Leary of O’Leary Burke Civil Associates shared the results of a traffic study conducted by Lamoureux & Dickinson Consulting Engineers, Inc.

According to the report, 37 percent of trips from Cider Mill II will travel through Cider Mill I to get to Dorset Street; this is based on 2000 U.S. Census employment data for South Burlington residents relative to where they live. Even so, board member Frank Kochman admitted his skepticism and belief that the percentage would be higher.

The study concluded a left turn lane would be warranted for Dorset Street and Cider Mill Drive, left and right turns would benefit an already-congested Van Sicklen Road, and a southbound right turn lane would improve the level of service at Hinesburg Road and Cheesefactory Road. Even though it claimed that a right turn was not warranted at Hinesburg Road and Nadeaucrest Drive—the entrance to the development—Wilking spoke in favor of having the southbound right turn lane.

Furthermore, the report assessed the impact to Winesap Lane, which is predicted to be more heavily impacted by traffic entering to and from Cider Mill II. The p.m. peak trips jump from 62 trips to 109 trips, which is about one vehicle every 30 seconds.

Resident Karen Cubino of Winesap Lane added another layer to the mix by summarizing the opinions of RSG, another transportation engineering firm she retained to examine the Lamoureux & Dickinson study.

“It was suggested it would be closer to 60 percent instead of 37 percent,” she said, regarding Cider Mill II east-west impact on Cider Mill I. RSG also estimated 115 vehicles per hour versus the 109 vehicles per hour assumption for Winesap Lane. RSG used 2015 U.S. Census workplace data; However, that data could have been for Chittenden County, and not exclusively for South Burlington, O’Leary said.

The Connectivity:To extend, or not to extend?

The decision is split among residents of Cider Mill I as well as among Development Review Board members whether to extend Cider Mill Drive past Winesap Lane. Extending it to Sommerfield Avenue would provide more direct access to Cider Mill II.

“We could do a variety of different things if we were to extend Cider Mill Drive,” Cubino offered, including narrowing the street, speed bumps, and other mitigation measures. Additionally, she collected 55 signatures from Cider Mill I residents for a petition to extend the road.

“While going from 60-100 peak hours may technically fall under small residential traffic, I have been through that neighborhood, and it just feels wrong not to have that connection,” commented board member Mark Behr. “I’d like to have more discussion and look at our options for making that a requirement for this project.”

For fellow board member, Matt Cota, the decision does not come easily. “As a resident of Winesap Lane, I am admittedly conflicted,” he said. “I have children who play on that road. I’ve also seen people think that Cider Mill Drive does have a connection and have seen cars spin out, turn around, get stuck in the mud, and have to creep back. My fear is that, if it is built, it could be like a 60-mph highway because it’s a straight-shot.”

Katherine and Edward Van Woert of Sommerfield Avenue wrote to the board in opposition: “This is not a ‘not in my backyard’ position: Cider Mill II traffic will come past our house whether Cider Mill Drive is extended or not. But a majority in both neighborhoods (as well as wildlife) will benefit from a lot less traffic and slower traffic speeds if ‘cutting through’ requires multiple turns through Cider Mill I as it does now.”

As for the developer: it wasn’t in the cards, and a good hand would have to be dealt to make the case for needing it, according to O’Leary. Extending the road would mean interfering with the wildlife corridor and crossing over Class II wetlands.

“I’m pessimistic that we can convince the Vermont wetland folks to cross Class II wetlands when a couple hundred yards to the south there’s another crossing. I have to justify that there’s enough traffic for something that is required. 100 trips on a p.m. peak on a local road is a lightly-used road.”

Regardless if it gets extended, an access road will be built linking Cider Mill I and II off Sommerfield Avenue; it will be called Aurora Drive.

The Wildlife

A north-south wildlife corridor is identified on the project, which has prompted individual neighbors as well as the Natural Resources Committee to pay attention to the project’s impacts.

For example, Dorothea Penar of Sommerfield Avenue recommended leaving a portion of open space completely natural; it was originally slated to be a neighborhood park. The Van Woerts and others have suggested landscaping along the connector between Cider Mill I and II. Split-rail fencing is being used around stormwater ponds to comply with the regulations but provide the least intrusive alternative. Pesticides, herbicides, mowing and planting non-native species in wetlands and their buffers will all be prohibited and outlined in homeowner documents.

These efforts and others are expected to make way for those who travel the corridor, such as whitetail deer, coyotes, red fox, bobcats, numerous bird species, and other small critters.

With the applicant given a host of staff notes to digest and feedback to consider, the board has continued this application to Tuesday, February 6 at city hall.


SOURCE: Miranda Jonswold, Correspondent