The owners of two Colchester businesses told us Thursday they’re concerned about the Exit 16 interchange project that VTrans has planned. They want to know why the project area extends nearly a mile north of I-89.
Comments from two VTrans officials, and a look at some of the publicly-available project documents, may help paint a clearer picture.
The Faour brothers own Three Brothers Pizza and the Sunny Hollow Quick Stop on Route 7 in Colchester, about three-quarters of a mile north of Exit 16. They want VTrans to tell them why the agency’s $10 million Exit 16 interchange project involves some of their land.
The project area actually extends even farther north on Route 7 than the Faours’ businesses. The boundary line is about a tenth of a mile north of them, just north of Sunderland Woods Road.
VTrans right of way chief Robert White and project manager Michael LaCroix spoke with us by phone Friday. They say that contrary to the Faours’ remarks to us, there’s a public safety need that far north.
According to VTrans documents, there are two banked sections of Route 7 within the project area that are too steep and need to be flattened out. The curve just south of Sunderland Woods Road is one of them…and the Faours’ property sits on it.
White and LaCroix say that what the documents describe as a ‘banking correction’ will make the Route 7 corridor safer for the Faours’ customers, allowing them to get in and out of the businesses more easily despite smaller driveways.
VTrans has also verified that it’s offered to buy part of the Faours’ property for $500. White and LaCroix say most of the 15-foot traffic island in front of the Faours’ businesses is within a public right-of-way. They say the buyout offer is as low as it is because only a very small part of the Faours’ land would be affected by the Exit 16 project.
According to White and LaCroix, they’ve served a summons and condemnation paperwork on about 17 affected property owners on the Route 7 corridor with whom VTrans has been unable to reach an agreement. The owners have 20 days to respond in writing. In the Faour brothers’ case, that’s a July 9th deadline.
Anyone that responds will have a court hearing scheduled in Burlington to decide if VTrans can take some of their property by eminent domain. A judge will automatically rule against any owners who don’t respond in time.
VTrans intends to move forward with the project even though it’s still tied up in the courts. At the moment, construction is scheduled to begin next spring and to continue until the spring of 2022.
If you’d like to see the VTrans project documents for yourself that are mentioned in this story, you can click here and go to the Project Plan Sheets section.