Chat With(out) Nat Episode Three: Eminent Domain

This video is about an eminent domain situation in Montpelier —
in which, the city council put forth condemnation proceedings on a Main Street building to complete a much larger bike path extension that would connect one side of town to the other.

Click image below to view video.

(The below is an excerpt from one of the news stories published originally in The Bridge)

City Moves to Condemn Montpelier Beverage Building
by Carla Occaso and Nat Frothingham

MONTPELIER — Montpelier Beverage building owners are crying “foul” over a recent move by Montpelier City Council to start condemnation proceedings for their structure located at 12 Main Street. However, the building thwarts what city officials say is the safest route to get a new proposed bike path across Main Street without creating a more dangerous intersection at a spot already declared a “failed intersection” by the Vermont Agency of Transportation.

Currently the bike path does not completely go through town. It drops off at either side of the center of town. On one side it goes from a point out behind the Department of Labor building and ends at an empty parking lot near the proposed One Taylor Street Transit Center out behind the Capitol Plaza. The bike path picks up again on the other side of the North Branch river and across Main Street to a point out behind Barre Street across from the Montpelier Senior Activity Center. And, in between, bicyclists must make their way on the streets, parking lots and back alleys.

The completed bike path as conceived would bring bikers from out behind the Capitol Plaza, across the river behind Shaw’s and would require either moving the one story Montpelier Beverage building to the adjacent vacant lot (tearing down and rebuilding), directing the bike around the existing building or condemning the building and taking it by eminent domain. In conversations that unfolded it became clear the first option might be too expensive (if done the way city council endorses requiring a second story rather than single story), the second one might be unsafe creating further complications at an already failed intersection, which leads to the third option of condemnation.

Jay White, spokesperson and co-trustee with the Mowatt Trust (set up to control the interests of the building that houses Montpelier Beverage) claims the city is going back on an agreement signed last year to help the trust relocate the building to the vacant lot immediately next to the existing structure.

The city agreed to pursue a one story building, City Manager William Fraser told The Bridge in a recent telephone interview. After that agreement was signed in February 2014, it was noted the one story would require a variance. “The agreement did not work because we could not agree on a price for the current property. A one story building is not permitted under the city’s zoning and would require a variance in order to proceed,” wrote City Manager William Fraser in an e-mail to The Bridge. He further explained by phone that one of the city council’s goals is to have high density development downtown, which means taller buildings with more units rather than sprawled out single story buildings. Therefore, the council changed its position, and decided to pursue eminent domain hearings.

The most recent hearing was held at Montpelier City Hall on October 28. The video of that hearing can be viewed here:…

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