Recently the City received a development proposal for an 89-room, five-story hotel and four-story parking garage on the parcel owned by Capitol Plaza Corporation located at 100 State Street. The proposal has generated a lot of community discussion regarding the development review process, comprehensive planning goals, and the community's vision for this area of the City. Without taking a position on the proposal, we would like to take the opportunity to provide the community with a brief overview of the proposal, the development review process, and the connection between development review and the City’s comprehensive long-range planning programs.
The subject parcel, 100 State Street, is located in the Central Business I (CB-I) zoning district, Design Control District, and Special Flood Hazard Area (i.e. 100 year floodplain). The CB-I district is comprised of lands in the heart of the City’s downtown generally following Taylor Street, Gov. Davis Ave, Court Street, School Street and encompassing neighborhoods on the near eastern side of Main Street. A copy of the City’s Official Zoning Map can be accessed on the City’s website or in the Department of Planning and Community Development. The objective of this zoning district is to allow a variety of uses necessary to serve as the community’s governmental, commercial, retail and cultural center. Residential uses are also permitted without a density restriction to add interest and vitality to the city center and to accommodate those who desire housing at relatively high density. As mentioned above, since the parcel is also located within the Design Control District, the proposal requires a two-step review process including review by the City’s Design Review Committee. These two-steps can run simultaneously however the Design Review Committee must provide recommendations, either in favor or opposed, before the Development Review Board can close the hearing and make a decision on the application.
The Design Review Committee held their first meeting to review the application on November 20th. The meeting was primarily dedicated to becoming familiar with the project and to allow for public comments. Architect Gregory Rabideau of Rabideau Architects Inc. in South Burlington attended the meeting and provided an overview of the project including proposed building elevations and materials. During the meeting, a number of comments and recommendations were made by Board members and the public. Subsequent meetings will be scheduled with the Design Review Committee later this winter to continue to review the application and provide recommendations on the overall design of the proposed hotel and parking garage.
The application is scheduled for initial review by the Development Review Board on Monday, December 4th at 7:00 PM. Since the project is still working through the design review process, this initial meeting with the Development Review Board is simply intended to open the hearing, help the Board become familiar with the project, and to identify any additional information necessary to make a decision on the proposal. The applicant is requesting site plan, conditional use, variance, and design review approval, so there are a number of criteria and development standards the DRB will closely review. The overall review process is expected to take multiple hearings over the next few months.
The Design Review Committee (DRC) consists of five regular members and two alternates appointed by the City Council to serve three year terms. The Committee is advisory to the Development Review Board and provides recommendations on the construction of new buildings, renovations and alterations to existing buildings, and the installation of signs within the Design Control District. The City has had a Design Control District in place since the 1970s. The district was established to “guide development in an area with particular historical, architectural, urban design, visual or cultural significance.” The Design Review Committee meets as needed but generally on the first and third Monday of each month at 5:30 PM in City Council Chambers. The meetings are open to the public, as well as televised through ORCA cable TV. Community members with an interest in a particular project are encouraged to attend.
The Development Review Board (DRB) consists of seven regular members and two alternates appointed by the City Council to serve three year terms; alternates are appointed to serve one year terms. The Development Review Board is the municipal body that, when required, is authorized and delegated to uphold and interpret the City’s Zoning and Subdivision Regulations. It is also the board authorized to hear appeals from decisions of the City’s Zoning Administrator. The DRB reviews applications for proposed projects at public hearings. Such reviews may be for site plans, conditional uses, variance requests and/or subdivisions. The City’s Zoning and Subdivision Regulations and state statutes set forth the criteria upon which the DRB makes its decisions. All public hearings follow open meeting law. This law does, however, allow quasi-judicial boards, such as the DRB, to deliberate in a closed session. The DRB may also reach a decision in a closed session provided the decision reached is put in writing and made public. All decisions of the DRB may be appealed by the applicant or an interested party who participated during the public hearing. As mentioned above, the Development Review Board will first hear the application for the proposed hotel and parking garage on Monday December 4th at 7:00 PM in City Council Chambers. If you’re unable to attend, the meeting will air on the City’s website and on ORCA cable TV. Comments can also be made in writing, addressed to the Development Review Board, and mailed to 39 Main Street, Montpelier, VT 05602. The public is encouraged to follow the review process.
Some of the comments received and heard on social media relate more to the City’s comprehensive planning goals and whether or not a parking garage is an appropriate type of development for this particular area. These concerns are larger community planning issues and are not taken into consideration during the development review process. The Planning Commission is expected to embark on a community-wide City Master Plan update in 2018. During this process, the community will be asked to envision the City’s future and identify the community’s land use, transportation, environmental resource protection, infrastructure, housing, and economic development goals.
Staff in the Department of Planning and Community Development are available and willing to meet with residents, business and property owners to review current development applications, answer zoning questions, and discuss long-range planning goals for the City. For more information please contact staff in the Department of Planning and Community Development at 223-9506.