The town of Essex will negotiate for some traffic-orientated changes on Susie Wilson Road with a developer looking to build on a long-idle property there.
Public works director Dennis Lutz said he wants to use the anticipated development impact fees from that project, if approved, in addition to previously collected fees along the corridor. Those funds could allow the town to implement some new traffic technology and hardware along Susie Wilson Road and cut down delays.
He outlined the developer’s plans for the selectboard during an executive session June 4, which he suggested because he didn’t want to disclose the expected use for the property before the applicant submits its proposal. Once that happens, staff, including public works, are asked to submit a review letter.
“If we can’t provide additional funds to fix the problem, the review letter is going to say don’t approve the project, which is crazy,” Lutz said.
The request comes a month after VTrans hosted a public forum during its initial design phase for a circ alternative project on Susie Wilson. That project will take anywhere from 5 to 7 years to complete.
“If you don’t do something in the next five years … that situation is going to get worse,” Lutz said.
Development in certain parts of town requires impact fees that are calculated based on an estimated daily trip load. In some cases, like when Lowe’s arrived to Essex, the town negotiates a specific arrangement beyond the normal impact fees due to the project’s impact.
The town last used impact fees along the Susie Wilson corridor when making improvements at the intersection with David Drive about a decade ago. Public works holds the right to ask any developer who comes before the planning commission to perform a traffic study to show how the proposed project would mesh in with existing traffic.
Those are especially important for developments around Susie Wilson, which has an F service level from the Vermont Agency of Transportation due to conflicting turn movements: the left-hand turn toward the village conflicts directly with the left turn onto Susie Wilson from cars coming from Burlington.
The applicant in this case came to the town before submitting to the planning commission and provided a traffic study. After several back-and-forth exchanges, the applicant offered a fesible study, Lutz said.
But the town took it one step further, Lutz said, pointing out certain aspects of the plan that could be improved. Those improvements will require additional hardware, such as a new controller and box for the traffic signals along with radar technology that will improve traffic flow.
“That will allow this corridor to work more efficiently up until the point where the state comes in,” Lutz said in a phone interview Monday.
Lutz said he’s kept the state informed throughout the process. He planned to ask the state to chip in the impact fee it would receive from the project instead of stashing it in its coffers.
The developer’s next step is to submit its application along with a traffic study.
Lutz estimated the project will cost up to $80,000. He said whatever agreement the town and developer come up with can be included in public works’ review of the project. The PC then stipulate that as part of its conditions for approval.