Charlotte Family Health Center proposal progresses in joint PC/ZBA meeting

At the joint Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) and Planning Commission (PC) meeting on June 3, the boards discussed a proposal to build a new Charlotte Family Health Center (CFHC). The hearing will remain open until applicant Emerald Green Properties submits a more robust stormwater management plan.

Scott + Partners Architecture building blueprints via
Scott + Partners Architecture building blueprints via

The proposal seeks to move the health clinic, currently located in Shelburne, to 251 Ferry Road, across from the Fire Department. The CFHC temporarily moved to Shelburne in fall 2020 when its previous location at 527 Ferry Road went up for sale. At the time, The News reported the doctors who owned the practice planned to build a new facility in Charlotte and hoped to return to the town in 2021.

According to the proposal, the new facility would include, “adequate exam rooms, office space, other interior space and adequate parking for an up-to-date and economically viable local family health clinic.”

Scott + Partners Architecture building blueprints via
Scott + Partners Architecture building blueprints via

The meeting began with discussions about whether the new building would be viewed as a mixed-use facility. Attorney Mike Russell requested the facility be categorized as a mixed-use health clinic and office, both of which fall under the 3,500-square-foot maximum allowed per construction permit. This comes after the April 28 meeting when the boards asked the applicant to recast the project as an office facility.

The proposal is unique in that applicants have applied for two permits for a single business. A board member noted the move “seems a little backdoorish.”

After a long deliberation, the boards unanimously agreed with the applicant to allow the permit to be a mixed-use facility between health clinic and office.

To some board members the debate illuminated vague land use rules. “There is ambiguity in the land use regulation that needs to be addressed in the future,” one member said. ZBA member Kyra Miller-Wegman questioned whether the clinic would continue to operate privately or if it would be open to the public. Russell said part of the plan is to add an urgent-care component to accommodate walk-in patients. Paul Reiss of Emerald Green Properties said, “[The facility] will be open to walk-in emergency care.”

The commission also addressed the applicant’s plan for stormwater management. Russell said they did not yet have final approval of a plan from the landowner. The property sits directly in front of a wetland, and plans show parking lot runoff draining into ditches that collect in a retention center north of Ferry Road, behind the fire department.

ZBA member Ronda Moore raised concerns that oil, gas, and antifreeze from cars parked in the lot would pollute the wetland.

Jacques Larose, the developer’s engineer, said they intend to meet state standards but could not guarantee the pollutants would not enter the wetland.

Attendees representing Emerald Green Properties provided blueprints to help board members envision what the project might look like. The blueprints depicted front and side view drawings of a barn-like structure.

Emerald Green Properties hoped to start the project this construction season, but depending on the length of the permit process might have to wait until next spring.

The board will meet to review a revised plan containing a stormwater management plan on June 17 at 6:45 p.m., prior to the regularly scheduled Planning Commission meeting.

Nick Bishop, is a student at the University of Vermont and a reporter for the Community News Service, a student-powered partnership with local community newspapers.