Wilmington, VT, Residents Air Anxiety Over Proposed Self-Storage Project

Property owner Edward Erhard has applied for a zoning waiver in Wilmington, Vt., to build a self-storage facility on the former site of the Fat City night club. Erhard wants to develop two single-story metal buildings that would comprise a total of about 8,500 square feet in 80 units, but self-storage isn’t listed among the conditional uses allowed in the district, according to the source. During a hearing of the development review board last week, several neighboring residents spoke in opposition to the project.

Property owner Edward Erhard has applied for a zoning waiver in Wilmington, Vt., to build a self-storage facility on the former site of the Fat City night club. Erhard wants to develop two single-story metal buildings that would comprise a total of about 8,500 square feet in 80 units, but self-storage isn’t listed among the conditional uses allowed in the district, according to the source. During a hearing of the development review board last week, several neighboring residents spoke in opposition to the project.

Although there have been some recent building improvements to the proposed site, the property is still considered “distressed” and operates at a loss, Erhard told the board. If the waiver is approved, the land would be divided into two parcels, with the self-storage facility built on what was originally used for overflow parking. The night club hasn’t operated since the 1970s.

The property is part of a village district intended for walking and shopping, but Erhard maintains the site is on the edge of the district and doesn’t fit the characteristics outlined for the area. Self-storage would be an improved use for the site without impacting aesthetics, public services, safety or traffic, he told the board. “As I understand it, the village district was created for people to walk around and shop and buy things. This really isn’t a walkable site,” Erhard said. “I’ve been a resident here for 47 years, and I don’t want to do anything that’s going to detract from what brought me here.”

Some residents opposed the project, citing potential for additional noise that could impact houses along Winter Haven Drive. Noise from motorcycles and snowmobiles already impact the neighborhood, according to adjacent property owner Roland Schneider.

Resident Patrice Schneider was most concerned the facility could spur increased crime in the area. “I know someone that owns a storage facility, and the units get broken into,” she told the board. “There’s all kinds of questionable activity. I have an 11-year-old daughter. We’re going to be abutting god-only-knows-what in those storage units. We already have an unsavory element coming into the community. Is that going to be closer to my house?”

Schneider said the facility would be a “sitting duck” for crime, with people “waiting with bolt-cutters.”

The property is shielded from view by natural foliage along State Route 100, according to Erhard, who indicated he would also install a security fence along the portion of the property closest to the highway. The developer also said he’d be willing to limit hours of operation as a condition to receiving the waiver.

“Our role is to decide if [a waiver] is in the best interest of the town and the abutters,” board chair Wendy Manners said. “If the project makes it past the waiver, then we’ll be looking at the standards for conditional uses.”

Members of the board are scheduled to make a site visit this evening. The board will resume public discussion of the zoning waiver on Sept. 19, according to the source.

Sources:

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