Cider Mill II Increases Density, Prompts Community Concern

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Thursday November 10, 2016

Amendments to the Cider Mill II project, located west of Hinesburg Road and south of the Claire Solar farm, have residents of Cider Mill I wondering what will become of their neighborhood and the character of the Southeast Quadrant (SEQ).

The Southeast Quadrant accounts for 3,900 acres, or 37 percent of the city’s land use area; it rests east of Spear Street, South of Interstate 89 and Swift Street, west of Muddy Brook, and north of the Shelburne town line. According to the Comprehensive Plan, the SEQ is the focus of much of the city’s future land use planning and land conservation efforts. The SEQ largely preserves the city’s agricultural heritage by being the least developed district with the most land use.

While commercial uses in residential portions of the SEQ have gone down over the years, there has been steady housing development in and around the SEQ, particularly with single-family and duplex homes. In fact, the conversation is turning to building neighborhoods at higher densities in order to conserve more open space with the help of Transfer Development Rights (TDRs) between non-contiguous parcels.

A Transferable Development Rights program is a planning process used to control land use and ensure effective urban development and land conservation. To conserve some of the city’s open land, this program gives certain landowners the right to sell (transfer) their development rights (known as “sending districts”) to developers to work within “receiving districts,” or districts more appropriately designated for higher density development.

Cider Mill II
Increased density, in itself, presents a series of other factors that determine the neighborhood’s makeup. That is what drew the attention of Cider Mill residents to the November 1 Development Review Board meeting after learning of an amendment to the second phase of the Cider Mill development.

Phase II (Cider Mill II) of the project was previously approved for 109 units, and now the applicant, JJJ South Burlington LLC, proposes increasing the number of residential units by 58 for a total count of 167 units. The units will consist of 125 single-family dwellings and 42 two-family dwellings. The increase in units triggers the associated Cider Mill Master Plan to be revised, Paul Conner, director of planning and zoning, explained. The project will require use of TDRs. Neighborhood Residential (NR) and Village Residential (VR) districts allow for 1.2 units or four units per acre respectively with TDRs. “We have enough TDRs to do the 109 units, but we are short of the 167. We need to acquire the remaining TDRs in order to fully develop,” Paul O’Leary of O’Leary Burke Civil Associates said.

After negotiating with property owner Leo Nadeau, the applicant also wishes to incorporate the adjacent 10.1 acre parcel into the plan. Nadeau will retain 5.1 acres and JJJ South Burlington LLC will purchase five acres and develop some single family lots and carriage homes.


The project will require use of TDRs. Neighborhood Residential (NR) and Village Residential (VR) districts allow for 1.2 units or four units per acre respectively with TDRs.
“We have enough TDRs to do the 109 units, but we are short of the 167. We need to acquire the remaining TDRs in order to fully develop,” Paul O’Leary of O’Leary Burke Civil Associates said.

After negotiating with property owner Leo Nadeau, the applicant also wishes to incorporate the adjacent 10.1 acre parcel into the plan. Nadeau will retain 5.1 acres and JJJ South Burlington LLC will purchase five acres and develop some single family lots and carriage homes.

The 42 duplexes will live on a newly-proposed road in the northernmost portion of the Cider Mill property in the Village Residential (VR) District--about eight acres of open space abutting the solar farm where a cornfield used to reside. The remaining units are in the Neighborhood Residential district.

This slightly alters the road network from the previously approved plan, which grants access to Hinesburg Road and into Cider Mill I. Access from Hinesburg Road will remain the same. Access between Cider Mill I and Cider Mill II will still occur about midway down Sommerfield Avenue, but rather than extend slightly east before dipping south to the rest of the development, the street will continue eastward, the length of the solar farm, and have a road running perpendicular to the south to access the rest of the Cider Mill II development.

The plan initially showed a cul-de-sac at the end of the road on the northern property, but because it was longer than 200 feet, it violates the Land Development Regulations. The engineer will look into either eliminating the cul-de-sac and lose four to six units or consider a private drive. Due to a couple of circumstances — including wetlands and limitations outlined in a resident’s deed — extending the road to Hinesburg Road was not an option.
For open space opportunities, the applicant will meet with the Recreation and Parks Committee. O’Leary said they are looking to extend easements for better connectivity throughout the developments and surrounding areas, including access to the city-owned Scott parcel to the south.

Community Concern

While the plan welcomes homes for future neighbors, some residents in attendance felt that it threatened the homes of another existing neighbor: wildlife.

“I’m very concerned about the north-south travel corridor for wildlife,” said Sarah Dopp, president of the South Burlington Land Trust. “Animals move freely north to south wherever they can go, and what we’re doing is plug, plug, plug.”

Resident Dorothea Pennar agreed, having served on the natural resources committee for Shelburne before moving to her new home on Sommerfield Avenue.

“That north-south corridor goes all the way down to Shelburne Pond,” she explained. She suggested keeping less formal trails throughout the area to maintain its natural state and to not develop the full 42 duplexes to the north.

“Take back the cornfield and let natural vegetation grow there. You’ll have pollinators and we’ve had a lot of field-nesting birds...You have an opportunity to make a change here by even just pulling back those duplexes as we suggested in a letter so that that corridor could be made natural.”

A few residents also commented about poor signage. Being one of the two developed homes at the end of Sommerfeld Avenue, Pennar was warned of the project as an abutter, but not many residents in Cider Mill I were initially aware of it, she said. She suggested that better notification and staking of where the building begins would be helpful going forward.

“There are a lot of children and families [in Cider Mill I],” voiced William Woolfrey of Royal Drive. He was concerned about the traffic and safety impacts that come with complete access the developments from Dorset Street over to Hinesburg Road. He suggested having a wide recreation path connecting Cider Mill I and II to prohibit vehicular access with the exception of emergency vehicles.

Mary Ellen Jeffries of Braeburn Street said she already sees the effects of what a cut through will have on the community.

“There are so many cars right now that are trying to go down on Sommerfield and cut through,” she said. “There are vehicles every day trying.”

DRB Chair Bill Miller assured that there will be a new Act 250 process where residents can voice their concerns, as well.

The applicant will return with a revised Master Plan and preliminary plat application at a meeting date to-be-determined.

SOURCE: Miranda Jonswold, Correspondent