Act 250 deems Saxon Hill an industrial park

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The Act 250 district commission has ruled the Saxon Hill Industrial Park meets statutory standards, solidifying town zoning codes and capping mitigation fees for developers.

The commission cited last year’s ruling, when the Vt. Agency of Agriculture first challenged the industrial park designation, to conclude the area indeed meets standards.

Noting the agency failed to appeal within the allotted 30 days — instead raising the challenge in a separate permit process — the commission reaffirmed its ruling by confirming developers will be allowed to pay a 1-to-1 mitigation fee when impacting primary agricultural soils instead of twice that amount.

The ruling came as part of a permit issuance for Al Senecal, who sought approval of a nine-lot subdivision within a swath of land in the area zoned as “Resource Preservation District-Industrial.”

State law defines industrial parks as areas that are “planned, designed and zoned as a location for one or more industrial buildings,” include access to roads and utilities and host no retail use. Office use is also prohibited, except that when related to the industrial use.

Businesses in the RPD-I include Revision Military, Autumn Harp, Reinhart Foodservice and, soon, Blodgett Oven, among others. The town argued most development in the area has been consistent with industrial uses, while secondary uses include recreation and office space.

Senecal’s application also shows two local businesses relocating: Haematologic Technologies, which manufactures high-quality plasma proteins for in vitro research at its current River Rd. facility, and Northern Lights Rock and Ice, which operates off Essex Way but is facing an expiring lease.

The commission wrote that even including Northern Lights, the area shouldn’t lose its industrial park status because outdoor recreation is not an excluded use, nor does statute require that every single building in an industrial park must meet industrial uses.

The decision allays concerns from town officials, who feared the higher fees would impede development in the area that local zoning codes have long considered an industrial park. Created by the town in 1977, the district designates about 40 percent for industrial development and sets the rest aside for recreation and conservation.

For Senecal, who initially opposed paying any fee because no other industrial user there had, the ruling means he can pay about $300,000 in mitigation fees instead of twice that.

He’s looking to host eight lots ranging from about two to 14 acres in his new subdivision, accessed by an extension of Thompson Drive and a new cul-de-sac, Red Pine Circle.

The ninth parcel, about 110 acres, contains no proposed development but is the site of the planned sand extraction Essex approved as part of settlement conveying about 245 acres to the town.