PUTNEY—Work has been halted on a park and ride project while the state and opponents to the project are scheduled to meet in a mediation session this week.
The state Agency of Transportation (AOT) has sought to build an 84-space lot on a site it owns on Route 5 near the Putney Fire station and the southbound Exit 4 on Interstate 91.
As the parcel sits on the Putney/Dummerston town line, the Development Review Boards in both towns signed off on the project.
Last fall, Putney resident Daniel Hoviss appealed to the state Environmental Court to reconsider its issuance of a permit to build the park and ride. A mediation date is scheduled for March 21, with a court date set for May 15 if an agreement can’t be reached.
Hoviss advocates building a smaller, more energy-efficient lot. He said 36 spaces, with six reserved for handicapped motorists, would be a better fit for the site.
He also wants to see the lighting changed, with Smart LED lights with motion sensors that would be turned on only when needed.
Other changes sought include four high-capacity 220-volt charging stations for electric vehicles, a larger bus shelter and bike rack, and a sidewalk that connects from the lot to the corner of Route 5 and Alice Holloway Road (near the Putney Food Co-op).
Earlier in March, crews began cutting down trees and doing preliminary site work. Hoviss objected and sought an emergency injunction to halt all work until after mediation, which was granted last week.
“We are also quite disappointed that the long and arduous appeals process has not been respected by [AOT],” wrote Hoviss in a March 6 email to The Commons. “What is the point of having a legal system that allows for citizen action and participation, if state agencies can completely disregard the legal process? I am personally dismayed that a attar agency has chosen to act this way, it is a reflection on the meaningless bureaucracy and shows a complete lack of respect for existing laws, the judicial process and our small town values.”
State officials did acknowledge last week that the work it was doing was on the Dummerston portion of the property, not on the Putney side. Hoviss told The Commons that this is an indication that the AOT “has actually acknowledged the potential viability of the appeal, even while discounting and arguing all of my points.”
Hoviss believes there is a good chance that a smaller, improved Park-and-Ride can built, but only if there is enough public pressure put on the AOT and local officials to do so. He said if the AOT “actually had public meetings and invited the public to comment or be involved in the process, as is required by Vermont Statues in 24VSA section 4302 section (2), then there would have been no appeal required.
”The fact that there was only one public hearing, which in its nature was not open to material comments that would affect the project in any way – and that same evening a DRB hearing on the project took place to vote and approve, provided no time for any public mobilization, input or discourse.”
Hoviss said Putney residents should “consider writing an email” to Town Manager Cynthia Stoddard (firstname.lastname@example.org) “to let her know how you feel about the project, and to thank her for remaining neutral and professional during this process.”
He asks Dummerston residents to contact Wayne Davis, who is the AOT’s project manager, at email@example.com.