The Elks Club Property Planning Process Will Take Time | Local News

MONTPELIER — The voter-approved acquisition of 133 mostly undeveloped acres will be finalized July 1, but concept plans for the soon-to-be city-owned property at the end of Country Club Road won’t be complete until 2024.

On an evening when city council discussed the need for more housing and received an update on two infrastructure projects, members agreed to solicit proposals for a comprehensive master planning process involving a property that was the longtime home of the Montpelier Elks, and club. nine-hole golf course.

Barring an unexpected development, the city will purchase Steve Ribolini’s property for $3 million on July 1. Based on council’s decision Wednesday night, the closure is expected even though proposals from consultants interested in assessing the property’s development potential are still rolling in.

Councilors were told these proposals would be reviewed, a consultant selected and a contract awarded in time for work to begin on October 1.

This will not be an overnight mission.

It was one of the advisors who was told it would take 18 months and their decision to solicit proposals was the smallest first step in a much longer process.

By then, in 2024, councilors were told that a final report from the yet-to-be-selected consultant would be in hand, including a master plan outlining various development options for properties the city doesn’t know much about. .

What little he knows is reflected in the RFP that was just approved.

He knows the size of the parcel – 133 acres – and that its only access – Country Club Road – is off Highway 2. He also knows that a good portion of the property – approximately 50 acres – has long been used as land. of golf and, there are about 83 acres of woods and a notable building. The latter is said to be the 15,688 square foot structure built by the Montpelier Elks 60 years ago and leased by the club after selling the property to Ribolini in 2016. That landlord-tenant relationship ended last year when the Elks de Montpelier temporarily relocated and subsequently relinquished its 153-year-old charter.

The size, features and topography of the property are far from sufficient to assess its potential future uses and this process will take time, require public input along the way and could possibly rule out ideas that have already been floated. .

These ideas range from the development of housing of all kinds to the integration of recreational opportunities – both indoors and outdoors. Conservation is always an option, commercial development may or may not be, and while many would love to see housing in a town that doesn’t have enough of it, the consultant-led process the council just lit will determine whether and to what extent this is actually viable.

City Manager Bill Fraser said the city doesn’t know what it doesn’t know about the site and the master planning process should fill in many of those blanks.

“Part of that is to see if there’s a viable project here,” he said.

While some have strong views on how the property should be used and one non-profit – The Hub – has expressed interest in the existing building and development of a social and recreational hub, the Councilor Cary Brown pointed out that there were no prerequisites to the planning process.

“I want to make sure it’s really clear to all of us that we don’t predetermine what kind of uses will and won’t be considered,” she said.

Brown was concerned that this fact would be easily lost in casual conversation and it should be emphasized that expectations need to be set before the planning process begins.

“Maybe there will be recreation as the proposed use and maybe there won’t be,” she said. “Maybe there will be housing (and) maybe there won’t. This process aims to answer these questions.

Josh Jerome, who was recently hired as the city’s new community and economic development specialist, said Brown was an accurate characterization.

The council won’t know how much the planning process will cost until it receives the proposals, but members know they didn’t include money in the budget approved by voters in March to cover those expenses.

Fraser said he has identified up to $150,000 in funding to cover costs incurred in the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Fraser said part of the money — $50,000 — was budgeted for a planned rewrite of the city’s strategic economic development plan. He said the project could be postponed, freeing up funds for the overall planning process.

If needed, Fraser said, the city could borrow up to $100,000 from its housing revolving loan fund, with the understanding that the money would be repaid in the future – potentially through the sale of building land on the town. formerly owned by the Elks Club.

Councilors embraced this plan and agreed to solicit proposals in hopes of expediting a planning process that they were told would not be rushed, but would involve opportunities for input along the way.

Louisa R. Loomis