Plans to begin construction at 180 Market Street remain stalled as the school board and city continue hashing out an agreement regarding school property.

School officials recently refrained from signing documents that would move the permitting process forward for the 180 Market Street city hall/library/senior center building project.

The decision came at a special school board meeting July 10. The documents include: an addendum for the exchange of rights and interests in real property with South Burlington; the stormwater operational permit application; the proposed site plan application for improvements within the 0.7-acre easement area; and the temporary construction license to the city and its contractors for the Marcotte School parking area reconstruction and construction of the 180 Market Street Project.

Negotiations between the district and city over the district’s May 29 addendum – spawned from safety concerns with a stormwater management concept design – were ongoing and approval of the other documents was contingent upon the addendum.

“I think one of the key outstanding issues is the construction phases,” board chair Elizabeth Fitzgerald said at the meeting. 

The school’s attorney, David Rugh – in attendance via telephone – confirmed that was a key issue, adding the city had “some items” to get to the school for response. He said the district and city administration looked to meet early the following week to resolve outstanding issues. 

City Project Director Ilona Blanchard was in attendance and asked if the board needed construction phasing information now or if it could be delivered later. Fitzgerald replied the district would need to finish out negotiations on the addendum before considering phasing. But Superintendent David Young added it would be beneficial to get construction phasing as soon as possible.

The city asked contractor Engelberth Construction for a construction phasing based on the revised stormwater management and site plans, plus progress on Market Street reconstruction, Blanchard said. In turn, Engelberth requested a timing estimate for when project permits would be granted, so that it could better inform phasing.

Once the city has construction phasing, it will offer to meet with school officials and review it, Blanchard said. But she emphasized phasing is subject to change at the site, the weather and day-to-day needs. 

“Any phasing that went into the addendum would not necessarily be a permanent plan,” she said. “It’s a living document … it’s fairly fluid and we do want to be responsive to all of the parties that are adjacent to the site.”

Blanchard added that the project entailed two types of construction: vertical and horizontal, and required access to several businesses and buildings around the site as well as for construction deliveries to the site. These demands, she said, meant that even the order of phasing couldn’t be locked in. 

“The notion of a living document, I think that’s something we understand everybody has to live with,” Fitzgerald said. “But it was important in the request in the addendum and it’s important that there be some specificity so that we can respond in terms of the school operations.”

Board member Brian Minier said that school pick-up and drop-off times could prove challenging with construction. Blanchard replied that the contractor would not be able to schedule around daily school needs but could work with them for special events. 

“On a daily basis that’s very difficult to do,” she said. “On a one-time event you can sort of orchestrate everybody to come together.”

Blanchard recommended the board send a representative to a meeting when scheduling occurs. 

As for the remaining documents, Fitzgerald said they were contingent upon the addendum. The school board will hold another meeting to act on them once members have received and reviewed the completed applications, she added. 

City Manager Kevin Dorn did not attend the school board meeting but told The Other Paper there were indeed documents the city still needed to get to district officials. Likewise, he said some documents were submitted to the district in draft form because city officials needed feedback. 

“I’m not blaming the school board for not signing the documents yet,” Dorn said. “It’s incumbent on us to get them the documents.”

At the meeting, Fitzgerald asked school, legal and city officials in attendance to provide any updates on the applications.

The school received a draft of the city’s stormwater operational permit application on Friday, July 5, which was missing some information, Rugh said. Additional information was sent to the school the evening of the ninth and was being reviewed.

“As of now we don’t see any major issues, pending additional review,” Rugh said, adding there was one aspect of the drainage proposal he’d like to discuss with the city. 

Moving on to the site plan application – specifically the 0.7-acre easement from the school – Rugh said the district had also received a draft on the fifth and was reviewing it. 

South Burlington Realty managing director Tim McKenzie was present at the meeting and said that he was concerned about School Street and how access there would impact his lot, located to the south east. He said he was unclear of what “secondary access” street classification meant but that it was important his lot have unrestricted access off School Street. 

“Our concern is your concern about the safety of the children. We want to make sure that street is designed in a way that is as safe as it can be,” McKenzie said. “But we also need to make sure that our interest, in terms of our access, is available to us.”

Blanchard then offered to walk district officials through improvements to the Rick Marcotte Central School site outside of the school’s 0.7-acre easement, as detailed in the site plan application. District officials had already seen the document, but she wanted to highlight landscaping changes made after the stormwater management design was altered. 

In a phone interview afterward, Fitzgerald told The Other Paper that walking through the site plan with Blanchard was helpful. She said there weren’t many significant changes to the document since earlier versions this January, save for landscaping. 

The district is waiting to set another meeting date until final applications are ready, Fitzgerald said. Final approval also depends upon the completion of the addendum negotiation. 

“I think we have a path to move forward for sure,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s hard to look at the entire packet in the tight deadline they [the city] wants us to. We’re kind of standing at the ready, and I wouldn’t anticipate any issues.”

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