Update on Killington Village progress
By Karen D. Lorentz
Some progress has been made concerning the Killington Village master plan and resort parking project permits that were issued by the District #1 Environmental Commission on Oct. 7, 2013, but then appealed.
On March 7, 2016, Judge Thomas S. Durkin, who is presiding over the two appeals before the Superior Court’s Environmental Division (a.k.a. the Environmental Court), rendered a decision affirming the resort parking project permit which Killington/Pico Ski Resort Partners, LLC, received in Oct. 2013.
The resort parking project permit is for construction of a day-skier parking lot for 1,276 vehicles to replace existing day-skier parking areas (at Snowshed and Ramshead); realignment of a portion of Killington Road; reconfiguration of the Killington Grand Hotel parking lot; and construction of a stormwater basin and associated utilities.
That permit had been appealed by Killington businessman Steve Durkee. A Mendon resident, Durkee filed an appeal to the resort parking project permit and raised issues regarding Act 250 criteria in his Statement of Questions. Those criteria included: 1(E) (Streams), 5 (Traffic), 8 (Aesthetics), 9(K) (Public Investment), and 10 (Regional Plan).
On March 18 Durkee filed a motion to alter (the decision) with the Environmental Court. The judge now will decide whether to accept the motion to alter and can then alter his findings or uphold the permit in its entirety.
Should he do the latter, Durkee has 30 days in which to appeal to the Vermont Supreme Court.
The significance of the parking lot permit is that it affects the building of the Village since it is a requirement for Phase I of the Killington Village to proceed.
“The next steps require unappealable permits,” noted SP Land President Steve Selbo. SP Land is the applicant for the Killington Village.
Selbo noted that the only other issue to affect the parking project had been resolved last summer when representatives of the Pinnacle Condominium Association and Killington agreed to reverse the sidewalk and roadway (change the side on which the sidewalk is located) during mediation.
Without a final parking lot permit that will stand, however, Selbo said it is difficult to move forward with Village preparations due to the complexity of that project.
Killington Village appeal
After a permit application was made in February 2012, the district commission issued an Act 250 permit to SP Land for the Killington Village master plan in early October 2013. SP Land later that month appealed the permit and findings that were also cross-appealed by Mr. Durkee.
SP Land received approvals for a 15-lot subdivision; reaffirmation of a previously-approved 10-lot subdivision; authorization to construct Phase I of the Killington Village master plan; and associated partial findings for proposed future phases of the Killington Village master plan. At the time, Selbo said that after careful examination, it was determined that SP Land could not figure out a way to make the Village master plan project work within the permit’s framework.
After filing its October 2013 notice of appeal, SP Land raised several questions that it wished the Environmental Court to address. The questions essentially gave notice of SP Land’s objections to issues centering on conditions imposed regarding party status, traffic, fire safety and future permit oversight of the district commission.
The Environmental Court hearing concluded in December 2014 but a decision has not been rendered on that appeal yet.
The Environmental Court is a trial court that considers an appeal on its merits and generally hears any appeal that is timely filed and based upon legitimate grounds. In accordance with court rules, Judge Durkin hears each appeal de novo, meaning that the judge hears all the evidence on the issues raised in the appeal as if the hearing had never happened at the district commission level that took place in May/June 2012.
The cross appeal filed by Durkee was for personal and commercial properties he owns (or has controlling interests) in Killington.
While Judge Durkin ruled on the party status issue in August 2014 and granted many requests in SP Land’s favor, he also said that he would consider testimony anew (at the trial) on several issues raised, including those questions regarding the propriety of proportional payments regarding traffic, fire safety, and certain findings and conditions affecting future phases of the Village.
At that time, Selbo told The Mountain Times that while SP Land was “encouraged” by Judge Durkin’s findings, “the trial will take a little longer than we had hoped as he will listen to testimony on some things he wanted to wait to rule on.” He also explained that the judge’s decision had reduced the number of items Mr. Durkee could appeal and in effect had limited his party status.
Killington Village progress
While awaiting the Environmental Court’s rulings, Killington and SP Land have made some progress regarding site plan approvals from the Town of Killington. The Town gave site plan approval to the resort parking project on Oct. 8, 2014. This approval was not appealed.
SP Land received site plan approval for Phase I of Killington Village master plan (193 units, 30,000 sf of commercial space, new skier service building and a 32 lot subdivision) from the town on January 13, 2016.
However, Durkee put in a notice of appeal on Feb. 9 to the Environmental Court with the town receiving notice on Feb. 11. A pre-trial telephone conference was scheduled for March 28, Selbo said.
In Durkee’s Feb. 28 statement of questions to the Environmental Court, he raises several questions in regard to traffic. Additionally, he raises an issue of whether the site plan application was complete without “presenting relevant information about the future phases of its development” and if it provided for “adequate protection and maximum compatibility to adjacent properties through adequate design, landscaping, screening and/or other remedy.”
In view of no appeal being filed regarding the aforementioned town’s site plan approval for the resort parking project, Mr. Durkee’s appeal on SP Land’s site plan approval is interesting. The question reads “Does the site plan adequately provide for replacement of day skier parking within a reasonable proximity to ski lifts and services as required by existing PUD approvals under the town zoning bylaw?”
Asked about the length of time he has been involved with the Village project, Selbo, who joined SP Land in 2004, noted that Centex, the original development partner of the Village, had made progress but then left late in 2006. In 2007, SP Land, which played a major role in locating Powdr Corp to purchase Killington from ASC in May 2007, went back to the drawing boards and hired architect Hart Howerton to design the Village. Since that time, the homebuilding crisis intervened and the product designed for the market in 2010, when the economy was still recovering, was downsized to create smaller units in the Village core.
“We’re now trying to get unappealable permits for a product designed six years ago,” Selbo reiterated, noting SP Land still has to secure a development partner(s) to build Phase I. The developer could be a joint-venture partner with SP Land or could purchase land and proceed independently. [As noted, the resort parking project would proceed in concert with the Village development as replacement parking is needed to make way for any development.]
However, if any appeals are made to the Vermont Supreme Court, which does not hear the case de novo, members look at the Environmental Court’s decision and consider the evidence that was submitted on the record in its hearing.
Meanwhile, Killington is one of only a few major Eastern ski resorts not to have a pedestrian village at its base. And it’s only been 49 years since Killington founder Pres Smith announced plans for the East’s first complete pedestrian ski village!