Hannaford Supermarket has called off its nearly decade-long effort to build a new superstore in Hinesburg.
A local community group has been fighting the project since it was first proposed in 2010. After years of battling over zoning, stormwater permits, and Act 250 regulations, the grocery store chain has officially called off the effort.
In a letter sent to lawyers Friday, the company said it has “elected not to pursue” development of the proposed project.
Representatives for Hannaford declined to comment on the reasons behind their decision.
The company wrote in an emailed statement, “Hannaford has notified the Vermont Superior Court that it will not be seeking environmental permits for that location.”
The Maine-based company first proposed the Hinesburg project in 2010. But by 2015, the project was mired in environmental court motions. Two years later, it had made its way to the Supreme Court. But that didn’t mark a victory for the proposal. Five aspects of the environmental case remain under appeal, with a trial set for Dec. 16.
“There were so many problems with this project,” said James Dumont, the lawyer who represented Responsible Growth Hinesburg, the citizens’ group that led the opposition to the development.
Dumont said the store was set to be built on an area that was mostly wetlands, which would have to be filled in. Dumont said the project would have also made the town’s existing problems with traffic and water quality “much worse,” and involved a stormwater drainage system that “just wasn’t going to work.”
Dumont said if he had to guess why Hannaford backed off, it was likely because they realized they wouldn’t be able to overcome some of those bigger environmental hurdles. He said he doesn’t expect the company to try to build a store in Hinesburg any time soon.
“I think my clients would be very happy if this were the end of the line,” Dumont said. “Even Hannaford’s experts and lawyers I think would agree that it would have to be a very, very different project if it was going to succeed.”
But the letter put out by the company’s lawyers doesn’t mean an immediate end to the legal cases. The five appeals that are currently in environmental court, Dumont said, still need to be dealt with.
One of the five appeals, he explained, was filed by Hannaford — but the rest were filed by his clients, over issues surrounding water quality, storm water discharge, subdivision, and land use laws. If the citizen’s group dismissed its appeals, Dumont said, “That would mean those permits would just go into effect.”
Instead, he said, the group will likely ask the court to order that the permits be sent back to the town agencies that granted them, along with a request to vacate those permits to ensure Hannaford can’t move forward on the project.