Mara Brooks, Editor
Jeanne and Rene Kaczka-Valliere said they have signed the petition opposing the proposed Charlotte Health Center and will appeal the project in environmental court should Evergreen Family Health fail to address their concerns regarding their adjacent property.
“I’ve signed on being a supporter of the party to appealing the decision if it appears that the town has not done what it needs to do to follow the rules regarding the wetlands,” Rene Kaczka-Valliere said of the proposed site at 251 Ferry Road.
In an interview with The News, the couple admitted their primary concern about the project is not the potential threat to the wetlands but rather to their own peace and enjoyment as “immediate neighbors” of the property.
“I kind of see [the wetlands] as a separate issue to what we are really concerned about,” Rene Kaczka-Valliere said. “I’m concerned with the wetlands, but we are also very concerned about the other issues that are going to be impacting us with the development of this very, very big building and parking lot.”
Jeanne Kaczka-Valliere described the project as “frontloaded” onto the couple’s property, which they purchased in 2013.
“We’ve been involved in this process, attended meetings, and we’ve expressed our concerns about how this project adversely and disproportionately impacts our property and our family in quite a profound way,” she said.
Jeanne Kaczka-Valliere said Evergreen has “not once initiated contact” with the couple to discuss their concerns.
“We’re talking noise, we’re talking privacy, we’re talking a 27-space parking lot that goes the whole entire length of our property,” she said. “I think we’re just at a point where we’re feeling at the mercy of the planning commission because we have nothing in writing, and we have had no input or communication from the applicants.”
Evergreen physician Paul Reiss, who is overseeing the healthcare center project, said he is puzzled by the Kaczka-Vallieres’ opposition and described their accusations as “totally false.”
“We’ve met them multiple times on site, and they were perfectly pleased with what we were recommending,” he said.
Reiss said he proposed “a latticed fence” along the length of the property and some “nice trees” to shield the couple’s view of the health center.
“There are no fences between any of the other properties in this commercial district, we put that in our plans just to appease [the Kaczka-Vallieres],” he said. “Perhaps they don’t recognize that they live in a commercial district.”
Reiss said he believes the Kaczka-Vallieres and other neighbors are asserting baseless environmental claims to mask their own personal interests.
“This ground is not considered a wetland of significant value,” Reiss said of the site. “It’s contained within a roadway. It’s actively managed land — it’s mowed, there are old buildings on it.”
He said the site is described as a wetland buffer only “because of the type of plants that are growing in the area. It’s not functioning as a wetland in terms of animal habitat or hatchery or any rare species of animal or plant.”
He added the state gave the health center project the “thumbs up.”
“It’s not a wetland that’s even on the state’s map,” he said.
Reiss said the June 17 planning commission meeting was supposed to “be the last thing that was supposed to happen” for the project to be approved, “but all of a sudden all these people showed up complaining about the health center.”
Reiss said he believed the opposition was led by ZBA member Ronda Moore. On Monday, ZBA Chair Lane Morrison asked the Selectboard to remove Moore from the board citing undisclosed conflicts of interest.
“From everything we know it was purely Ronda Moore that started this whole thing,” Reiss said. “We’ve been taking steps toward building this health center for the last year, and now all of a sudden there’s this heightened concern about impacts on wetlands.”
Reiss said those who oppose the health center on environmental grounds should come clean about their motives.
“They should just come out and say what they’re angling at, because they’re looking at things around the edges to try to prevent us from doing this,” he said. “Do they just not want a healthcare center in the village?”
He said obstacles to proceeding with the project, which he described as “coming at us from all sides,” could place the Charlotte Health Center in jeopardy.
“We can’t keep going on like this, we don’t have unlimited resources,” he said. “If we miss this building season, it could very much doom the project.”
The application is currently awaiting final approval from the planning commission.