A 24-apartment building proposed in downtown Morrisville cleared one obstacle on its way from concept to reality last week. The town might get a bigger public parking lot out of the deal.
Morristown’s Development Review Board has been looking at designs for the Village Center Apartments proposed by Lamoille Housing Partnership at 26 Hutchins St.
It would be a large building — five floors — and would somewhat help fight a very large problem: the lack of affordable housing in the area.
“All across the state, these are the types of places we’re looking for,” said Jim Lovinsky, executive director of Lamoille Housing Partnership. “The need is real.”
The parking proposal involves redesigning the town lot off Pleasant Street, which intersects with Hutchins. Basically, more spaces would be added on the perimeter of the lot, with fewer in the middle.
Zoning administrator Todd Thomas said the plan would increase parking from 87 spaces, with 25 reserved for overnight parking, to 118 overall, with 42 overnight spots.
“It’s a huge expansion of overnight parking,” Thomas said. He said the town might institute a permit-to-park system in the future, “but right now, it’s a free-for-all.”
That would solve the town’s parking requirements for Village Center Apartments.
The housing partnership and the town government signed a memorandum of understanding last week that aims to support the project and “ensure that adequate winter overnight parking is available while keeping in mind the broader parking needs of downtown Morrisville.”
In the memo, the town agrees to redesign its Pleasant Street parking lot to increase the number of spots, and dedicate 16 of them to tenants of the building. The town will work with the housing partnership to apply for a grant to help pay for the overhaul and get it all done by the summer of 2022, about the timeline envisioned for the apartment construction.
The housing organization agrees to be part of discussions about parking needs in town and help pay for the new parking lot.
Development review board member Melissa Leblanc said the town’s parking needs ought to come first, seeing as the lot is frequently full already, even though some pretty sizable properties are vacant near both Portland Street and the parking lot.
Thomas said he had previously drawn up the parking lot reconfiguration, “but this would be the impetus for actually doing it.”
There was ample discussion about accessibility for people with disabilities at last week’s review board meeting. Hutchins Street is fairly short and steep, and David Nepveu, whose family owns the lot at the corner of Hutchins and Portland streets, was skeptical whether wheelchairs could get up and down the street easily.
Laura Nepveu wondered what’s the point of even having parking regulations if they can be waived as part of an overall town parking lot overhaul, and yet still only have one dedicated spot for the apartment residents.
“Either say no to the need for parking requirements, or say we have them for a reason,” she said.
Lovinsky said it’s likely that plenty of the apartment tenants won’t have cars.
Samantha Dunn, a developer at Housing Vermont, a nonprofit formed nearly 32 years ago to develop affordable housing all around the state, said at other Housing Vermont-affiliated properties, about half the units are occupied people with vehicles. In one location in Hartford, she said, there are nine cars for 30 units.
“It’s very hard for us to find land in a downtown, which is exactly where these people need to live,” Dunn said.
The housing partnership has 300 units in Lamoille County, Hardwick and environs. Last year, it got 400 applications for housing.
Tenancy in Lamoille Housing Partnership properties is based on income level, and the Village Street Apartments would have a mix of qualified applicants ranging from as little as 50 percent of the median income and to 120 percent of it.
The building would have 12 one-bedroom units, eight studios and four two-bedroom units. Rent would run between $617 and $1,000 a month, with heat and electricity included.
It would be five levels tall, but the bottom level can be built below grade, thanks to the slope of the hill. The design calls for the third through fifth floors to expand out over the footprint of the lower two floors.
The review board will discuss the project again Feb. 12.
Other zoning news
• At the Jan. 22 meeting, the review board approved a zoning permit for eight new house lots near the Morristown/Stowe town border. The private road accessing the lots, Elizabeth Lane, is in Stowe.
The property is owned by Dale E. Percy Junior Inc. The approval follows a 2013 permit that also created eight lots. No houses have yet been built, but a homeowners association has been formed, and will be updated to reflect the new homes.
The tightly packed parcels were made possible by an agreement that Percy set aside nearly 21 acres of the property as open space, an arrangement known as a planned unit development. These tradeoffs allow developers to build homes more closely together than normally allowed, while maintaining land free from future development.
• At the Dec. 11 review board meeting, the board allowed logger Randy Fitzgerald to continue his logging operations despite noise complaints.
He told the board he has been processing firewood on Almeron Drive, a side road off Fitzgerald Road, for 25 years.
“It’s called Fitzgerald Road for a reason,” he said. “My family’s been there 150 years.”
He said he cuts about 100 to 120 cords of wood a year, but doesn’t want to be limited to just that, if the need arises.
Thomas said he received anonymous letters complaining about the sound of the logging operations.
The board seemed more impressed with Fitzgerald’s wood-cutting efficiency than swayed by anonymous letters, but opted to put some conditions on the operation.
The board ruled that Fitzgerald will be allowed to cut logs during business hours Monday through Friday (8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.), and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays. No logging will be allowed on Sundays or holidays.