When a single person is able to use the Act 250 process to delay a project for up to two years for reasons that have been dismissed by all others, the state needs to amend the law.
The instance at hand is with the proposed Eastview housing project â€” a 101-unit retirement community to be built on 30 acres south of Porter Medical Center campus off South Street in Middlebury. Opposed is South Street Extension resident Miriam Roemischer. She has been the proverbial thorn-in-the-side of those who have pushed the project forward. Thatâ€™s a shame.
While other community members, including many along South Street, raised initial concerns about the project â€” including the fact that traffic would increase and they wanted to be sure traffic-calming measures were in place â€” their concerns apparently have been satisfied and the public good of the project (not to mention the appropriate zoning) has outweighed their own personal preferences for a quieter street.
All, that is, but Miriam Roemischer, who has hired a lawyer and filed an appeal of the permit that has already been approved by town zoning and by the District 9 Commission. The appeal allegedly challenges the approved permit on seven Act 250 criteria relating to air pollution, waste disposal, traffic congestion, scenic beauty, agricultural soils, conformance with municipal plan and the impact of growth on the surrounding community. (See story on Page 3.)
The crime of Roemischerâ€™s action, so to speak, is that on each of those issues, testimony has been carefully collected and a decision by the town and regional Act 250 Commission has been approved. Nor is that decision likely to change with yet another review by the Vermont Environmental Court, which likely wonâ€™t take up the case until June and a decision might not be reached until the following year. The shame is that one person, simply because they fear the way their neighborhood will change, can sabotage a project that hundreds of community residents want to see built, and which would benefit the local economy while having almost no negative environmental impact. Not only would jobs be created with this project, but area families also would be able to secure residences for older family members in a safe, pleasant environment.
Vermont residents would hope that the Act 250 process would be used by a group of citizens to stop smelly pig farms from locating next to residential neighborhoods, for example, or perhaps prevent a race-car track or a landfill from building next to a quiet residential track. But when the process is used by a single person to thwart development considered positive by the vast majority in the community simply because that one person doesnâ€™t want the project in their own back yard (the NIMBY complex), the state legislature should move to rewrite the law.