Edd Merritt, Contributing Editor

Proposed Maplefields design at site on Route 7 and Church Hill Road. Photo contributed.

Engineers for the proposed Maplefields off Route 7 and Ferry and Church Hill roads wrote to Zoning Board Chair Frank Tenney saying that, due to comments by the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) concerning cross-traffic turns into and out of the proposed location, they and R. L. Vallee, Inc. are withdrawing their proposal for a Maplefields Store on the site. The proposal called for lanes to allow southbound drivers, once they had passed through the traffic signal at the intersection, to turn left into the store’s lot and again to turn left as they leave. VTrans instead said only right turns from Route 7 into and out of the location would be allowed. Vallee and its engineers found this unacceptable and feared people would try to turn south coming out despite signs to the contrary.

Vallee’s proposal had contained a proposition for a dedicated left turn lane south of the traffic signal. VTrans responded, saying such a dedicated lane would require relocating it so that turns would happen well south of the existing entrance to the property. This would require filling in “sensitive wetlands,” a move that Vallee feels would impinge upon these wetlands and is something they don’t wish to do, particularly in light of the concern expressed by a number of Charlotte residents.

Sadly, Bid Spear, Charlotte owner of the property at this major intersection, passed away February 19, and his son-in-law Gary Farnsworth will head up the next steps. Farnsworth continues to be interested in selling the property, which has been owned by the Spears for many years. In a recent Front Porch Forum post, he said that the entire property had been zoned for retail purposes until 10 years ago when it was removed from the retail list, in his view, for no apparent reason. Engineer Dave Marshall said that now only 30 square feet of the property could contain retail. He was uncertain how that figure was determined, but he feels there must have been a specific intent in making the change.

Farnsworth was adamant in affirming that its sale was not the town’s to deal with and that Vallee’s decision came as a result of a ruling by a state agency. He did say that the existing garage and snack stand have been active parts of the neighborhood and that many a “Little Leaguer,” as well as coaches and parents, finished after-game gatherings at the “creemee window.”  The Spear family hopes that its attempts to sell the property will prove fruitful in the near future. In his Front Porch Forum piece, Gary suggests that the town or those who expressed interest in its use through a recent petition buy it, and then the question of whether its development continues to contribute in a positive way to the corner environment rests on their shoulders.

The saga continues.