Selectboard Special Meeting Notes – Hinsdale Bridge Project Land Taking Hearing

hinsdale bridge project

The Brattleboro Selectboard held a special meeting and public hearing to discuss the taking of lands at 28 Vernon Street  for the upcoming Hinsdale Bridge project. The board held off on making any form decisions to give the property owners even more time to respond.

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  • Preliminaries

    Pre-meeting chit chat about the lovely weather, planting garlic, lighting directions and nightmares,

    Chair Tim Wessel – says Brandie won’t be at the meeting. We’re re-convening after doing our site visits to the properties. No remarks this week. Lots of events to remark upon, but we did have the Governor just changed the travel map – no one coming in and out. Quite a development.

    Elwell – no comments.

    No board reports.

    Skipped public participation.

  • The Public Hearing

    Bob Fisher – we had the site visit earlier. This is a hearing for the taking of the lands – condemnation of property – taking for just compensation needed for the public project of the Hinsdale bridge project. We’ll go through the entire project. 28 Vernon Street reached an option agreement earlier this afternoon for easement rights in the parking lot. Tonight the main rights are the west side of Rt 142 where the bridge intersects the bank. We need this for sloping water runoff. We will proceed in two parts – the necessity of taking the property, and then the just compensation. If possible, I’ll tun this over to Gary LaRoche to proceed with his presentation of the project. It’s a bit our of the ordinary, but he may segue to other members of his team to talk to other issues.

    Gary Laroche – I’ll go over the location, what it entails, the 7 elements of necessity and this project. This is in an urban compact area of Brattleboro off Rt 142. The existing conditions – in NH we have George’s Field Rd and the Runnings and the marina and the mountain rd. On Vermont side we have Barrows and Fisher, the RR, Royal Road… the new bridge will connect 119 and 142 over the CT river. The existing bridges will be closed and made for pedestrians and bikes. On the Vermont side, the project begins near Royal Rd – a culvert for stormwater, utility relocation, retaining walls, new intersection and signals, and new entry to 28 Vernon St parking lot. VT 142 profiles shows a raise in grade of 12 feet approaching the intersection. The VT=NH 119 profile starts at VT 142 and 119 and shows the approach grade to the bridge – it spans over the railroad and river to NH. The raise in grade is to get over the railroad – a 23 foot minimum clearance is required. As a result of the raise in grade, retains walls will be required to prevent spill into wetlands and impacts to parking lot. On VT 142 from the south there will be two lanes. There will be three lanes from NH, and to the north there will be 3 lanes with separate left turn on VT 119. It fits with environmental requirements. We did traffic analysis favoring left turn lane from the north.

    Trent Zanes – NH engineer – there is quire a bit here. In our traffic analysis we looked at lanes needed for the bridge and in all conditions a turn lane was needed for left turns. There is a heavy column turning left so we need to store that traffic and decelerate – by separating lanes it will better function well into the future. We use a 20 year design life for intersections.

    Gary – Vtrans and Brattleboro agreed to a geometry to do the work. Here’s Steve Barrett.

    Steve Barrett – I was at the earlier hearing. It was obvious the volume of traffic on Rt 142. We totally support the turn lane. As we discovered when we put traffic lights on lower main, we extended the turning lane. That’s good evidence there. We blocked off one lane to do some work and traffic queued all up Main Street. There is traffic, and trucks going down 142. Any queuing of traffic doesn’t help emergency services and their response.

    Gary – so there has been public outreach for the project throughout the process, the documents have been public and are available at NH DOT web page. There have been public meetings describing the project, since 2017. There have been several public hearings in 2018 and 2019. Now, the 7 elements of necessity. 1. Environmental assessment looked at ten alternative locations. Alternative F was the only one to meet environmental criteria. The Bridge Committee recommended and the board supported alternative F. 2. There is no agricultural land impacted by this project. 3. Effect upon home and homestead rights of owner of land… here is a map. Blue Seal has been aquired and will be demolished as will the Walker property. The entry to 28 Vernon St parking lots will move. The homestead of Walkers was purchased and Rose and Tullius property won’t impact there ability to get to their house. The projects geometry requires a raise in grade. The Walker’s home is adjacent to the intersection and fill slope would impact the footprint of the house. The three commercial properties include the Heim Haus building being purchased, Holstein rights won’t be impacted, and the driveway at 28 Vernon Street will be relocated and the parking will remain the same with new entry. 4. Scenic highways – this isn’t located in a scenic location. The recreation values will be improved – new sidewalks on Vernon Street and increased shoulder widths. The area will have more greenspace and improve the character of the area. 5. Utilities will be accommodated – water, sewer, electric, and communication relocations. Overhead utility lines will be buried. Municipal infrastructure will be replaced as needed. Girder spacing is conducive to future communications wiring across the bridge with empty communication conduits. Water lines will be raised to remain accessible. 6. Permits needed for the project – all Vermont permits have been acquired as of yesterday. All clear on environmental permits. The operational stormwater permit requires a stormwater treatment facility on the site at the south end. There will be a gravel wetland. 7. Effect on Grand List

    Rosa Benoir – right of way appraisal chief for NH – the tax loss spreadsheet lists the land and improvements for the project. The Walker residence, the railroad , the Heim Haus, part of the RR, and 28 Vernon Street parcel removing 32 parking spaces. The areas show a total of land, loss of value, the tax loss, and percent of tax loss. The annual property tax loss is $33,922 or 0.1%

    Gary – the right of way hearing roll. This is the property we need (shows maps). The remaining property is parcel 4 – the Jeffery Rose and Betty Tullius property. The summary of acquisitions is a slope right and a temporary construction easement. This concludes my presentation.

    Bob Fisher – thanks Gary, very helpful. If there are others who wish to give comment, now would be the time n the necessity part of it, and if not we can go to the valuation part of the hearing.

    Tim – raise your hand on the screen if you wan to talk… I don’t see anyone, so… I close this portion of the hearing.

    Bob – open the section for compensation, then turn it back to me and we’ll talk valuation.

    Tim – okay – let’s open the compensation portion of the hearing.

    Trey Polk – the agent who did this recently retired. I’ve reviewed his work. This parcel was valued by the waiver evaluation process. It can be used on low value properties . It’s on the backside of the property, not where they access the house. It could be a waiver, then we looked at land values, and this is low value land on a steep rocky bank. $250 for the temporal rights, and $350 for permanent for a total of $600.

    Bob – thanks. That’s pretty much the sum of it.

    Liz McLoughlin – will we hear from the property owner.

    Bob – they were noticed for this hearing by certified mail, and they signed for it. If they are on the call we can hear from them, if not this was their opportunity with respect to the valuation hearing.

    Ian – can you speak to what the previous conversations have been with the property owners?

    Bob – the state has negotiators, and for this property, the landowners never communicated or contact them. It is lack of communication as to why we are here. The people just never responded.

    Liz – so does anyone know these people? Are they ill? Any reason for not responding?

    Bob – I don’t know them. I did check to see if taxes had been paid and all indications are that they are doing what they need to do to maintain the property but haven’t communicated regarding these easements?. For months.

    Liz – with COVID you worry you haven’t heard from someone.

    Bob – they signed for the certified letter. They may have been at the site visit. I’m not familiar with them.

    Trey – since this started, I don’t know anyone making contact with them. They got their offer, and notice fo this hearing. I called Jeffery’s mother and she said she’d pass along the information. They are both fine and employees at the Retreat and not participating. Low value, so they can have a lack of concern.

    Gary Stroud – what’s the next phase?

    Bob – at the conclusion of this hearing the board will deliberate. They have 60 days to deliver their findings – to take the property and awarding the $600. That gets filed. It can be appealed to Superior Court. If no appeal, then it becomes final. With regard to construction, it will begin next summer and NH wants these acquisitions completed so bidding can begin. It will be done in 2024.

    Gary – very informative. If people have to be relocated or moved, how does it work if they aren’t active on it right away, plus COVID – they have that right to appeal.

    Tim – this doesn’t involve moving – it is a small portion of road near and a steep bank. Won’t affect the house.

    Gary – awesome. Thanks.

    Tim – that deliberative session doesn’t have to be tonight?

    Bob – it can be tonight, or if you want we can set it for another meeting.

    Tim – I’d set it for another meeting for the property owners to weigh in. Certainly soon.

    Bob – it would be warned as a deliberative session.

    Tim- this doesn’t happen every day…

    Ian – is there another part after this?

    Bob – no – once this is closed you are done.

    Ian – before we close it then, we have fulfilled our responsibilities on notifying the property owner. There’s no hole if we moved forward.

    Bob – that is correct. We did certified mail in a timely manner.

    Tim – I close th hearing and that concludes business for now.

    Liz – I move to adjourn…

    Tim – oh, public participation… we moved that to the end.

    Bob – a great big thanks to all the engineers and negotiators. It is an incredible amount of work going into the bridge project.

    Tim – and everyone participating tonight.

    Bonnie Girvan – I live at 60 Morningside Commons – my view will be drastically changed. I have a beautiful view of the river, and in the morning I’ll be looking at a big bridge over the river and it will be in the view of about 100 homeowners. It is very disturbing. I know it will be w wonderful great bridge but isn’t why I bought this property.

    Liz – maybe Gary the engineer would address aesthetic mitigation matters?

    Tim – this isn’t a hearing for the bridge, just taking of land. But Gary might have left us…

    Gary – I’ll bring Trent in to talk of cosmetic things.

    Trent – the bridge was designed in coordination with project advisory committee – lots of community feedback about sidewalk on bridge, lighting, bump outs to look over river. Lots of details like that. Not much with the structure. We basically.. we talked about different colors for the existing bridges. There was some aesthetics – for the piers – we brought different concepts – we’ll cast the piers to make them more attractive.

    Tim – we have a really nice bridge over the West River. It is important to residents. To Bonnie, I will post a link to an Oct 15 community forum on the existing bridges. Some neat things coming up that go over to the island, with historic and natural beauty. It’s up on BCTV.

    Tim – I’ll close out both hearing portions. Thanks to Bob to help us though this today.

    Tim – public participation is our last agenda item….for comments and questions unrelated to the taking of land or the bridge… anyone have any jokes to buy time… anyone raising their hand? No?

    Liz – I move to adjourn…


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