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Staples decision faces appeals from both sides

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By JOHN FLOWERS

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury Development Review Board’s (DRB) conditional approval of a proposed Staples store off Route 7 South is being appealed to the Vermont Environmental Court by both the developer and neighbors opposed to the project.

The Middlebury Development Review Board in September approved the proposed 14,737-square-foot-store for The Centre shopping plaza with several conditions, including that:

• Developers (Middlebury Associates LLC) submit a final master plan for The Centre showing that it will “be deemed fully built out with the Staples, based on the zoning limitations of traffic capacity, parking and town plan conformance.”

• Access connections be built between The Centre and the neighboring Middlebury Short Stop and former Dollar Market.

• A series of sidewalk connections, entrance upgrades, crosswalks improvements and landscape additions be put in to enhance pedestrian safety and aesthetics within the plaza.

• Traffic signal timing adjustments be made at the Route 7 South/plaza intersection to ensure extra traffic generated by the Staples store does not exacerbate gridlock on Court Street/Route 7.

A notice of appeal filed with the Environmental Court by Middlebury Associates LLC attorney David R. Cooper states that “although the decision technically approves the project, it imposes unreasonable conditions upon the appellant, and should be modified.”

Meanwhile, a group of 10 people who had opposed the Staples application have also filed an appeal with the Environmental Court.

“They think no permit should have been issued at all,” said their attorney, Bristol-based James Dumont, on Friday.

The appellants will soon file docket statements with the court, outlining their respective arguments. The court will then decide whether there is adequate evidence on the record to support the DRB decision.

After its review, Environmental Court could remand the application back to the DRB with instructions for the board to alter its original decision or some if its conditions, according to Middlebury Town Planner Fred Dunnington. The court currently has a very full docket, Dunnington pointed out, and it could be quite some time before it makes its next step known.

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