MONTPELIER – Plans to build an 81-room Hampton Inn & Suites and a city-owned parking garage are on hold after a group of residents appealed the city’s decision to grant permits.
Montpelier voters approved a $10.5 million bond for the garage in November. The final permit needed to advance the projects was issued May 2.
“We could be proceeding forward with final designs, taking steps for both of these projects, but instead, we’re in litigation,” said City Manager Bill Fraser. “Every day after May 2 is a delay caused solely by litigation.”
James Dumont, an attorney representing the opppostion group “Friends of Montpelier”, argues the city didn’t follow their own regulations during the permitting process. They’ve appealed both the Development Review Board permit and an Act 250 permit.
“The appeals boil down to the failure by the Development Review Board to apply the correct criteria to the facts of the case,” Dumont said. “They relate largely to traffic issues and subdivision issues, how it should be properly done, and whether there’s access to the street as required by the ordinance.”
Fraser strongly disagreed with Dumont’s view, saying the city followed the proper steps in the process. Even so, he said, the challenge won’t affect the project.
“If you look at what they’ve raised, I guess the question is what happens if they’re successful? As I see it, even if they were right, we would still end up with a permit,” Fraser said.
“We’d have to revise it slightly and address whatever shortcomings they feel we didn’t comply with, but the end result would still be that we’d have the hotel and garage.”
But, he said, the appeal means delays, and costs are rising each day. That could eventually put the city and the developer in a financial bind.
Dumont denied that the “Friends of Montpelier” are stalling in an effort to cancel the projects.
“My clients are not doing anything to stall the project,” Dumont said. “If the Development Review Board handled this case the way they were required to by law, we wouldn’t be here.”