On November 2, 2022

Hartland planners make opposition to farm proposal official

By Curt Peterson

Hartland planning commission members feel a local proposal is in conflict with the Hartland town plan.

Last week, they drafted a proposed memorandum addressed to the Act 250 commission spelling out the details of their opposition. On Oct. 26 the board made it official, and unanimously approved the final draft for delivery the next day.

Sunnymede, a family-owned farm two miles from a proposed farm store site it acquired on Routes 5/12 is seeking Act 250 approval.

Early last summer, Sunnymede proposed a 7,500 square-foot market on the former site of the Bedell property on Route 5/12 in Hartland. The site is within a designated “rural residential” area according to the town plan.

The planning commission objects to Sunnymede’s “farm stand” assertion, used to justify exception to the rural residential designation. The planning commission considers the project “commercial retail,” which the town plan limits to Hartland Three Corners village center.

The plan includes parking, 15 electric vehicle charging stations, retail space, a deli, and seating for people to consume food purchased on site. Planning commission members John Bruno, who has dealt with the commission in the past, and Jay Boeri, said the commission can either grant SF Farm Shop LLC their permit “with conditions”, or deny it. Bruno explained here is a list of standard conditions they ordinarily attach as part of any permit.

Planning commission member Dan Jerman said, “If we don’t prevail, we will have to decide if we want to appeal.” Sunnymede can also appeal if the permit is denied. Peter Gregory, the executive director of Two Rivers Ottauquechee Regional Commission in Woodstock, has said the planning commission memorandum expresses their position as well.

Sunnymede, meanwhile, says the farm store’s revenue will predominantly come from agricultural products from their Hartland farm, other local farms and other Vermont producers. Wine and non-agricultural products would make up the minor difference.

The planning commission recommends requiring minimum percentages of retail space to be dedicated to agricultural products sales, and giving the town authority to enforce permit restrictions on Sunnymede and future owners.

The footnote includes a caveat: “If the applicant’s project is nonetheless approved as being in any way ‘agricultural’, the planning commission requests that the commission expressly conditions any permit on the applicant’s present and future adherence to this alleged aspect of its business,” lest the shop become a “general retail business.”

Sunnymeade’s Act 250 permit is currently pending, according to the Act 250 website.

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