New Building to Replace State Street Gulf Station
The recent removal of the old gas tanks at the closed Gulf Station at 105 State Street, next to the Pavilion Office Building, opens the way for the anticipated sale of the station to Thom Lauzon, former mayor of Barre and a real estate investor and developer. Lauzon told The Bridge he will seek a permit to tear down the old brick station building, which is environmentally contaminated and structurally unsafe, as well as a permit for a new building of up to 10,500 square feet.
Lauzon, who is working with architect Jay Ancel of Black River Design, said the building could be two or three stories tall. The first floor could be a retail space or another use compatible with a first floor location, the second floor would likely be offices, and the third floor—if built—would be market-rate apartments. Lauzon noted he put in two new market-rate apartments above the Cornerstone Pub in Barre that have done well. “I wish I had 50 of them,” he quipped.
The building will be built closer to the road than the gas station building, but not right up to the sidewalk, he said. Lauzon said he will leave room on the east side of the property for a two-lane access road and sidewalk to the state parking area behind the station known as “the Pit,” which has been talked about as a location for a parking garage with housing above it. He said he is supportive of such a project, and would be an interested party and potential investor in it, if it goes forward.
Lauzon stressed he wants the new building to “honor the history of the area.” He said he is interested in talking with neighbors about his plan, and pledged he will be an “open book” about his plans for the lot. He noted that he does not expect to ask for tax stabilization. Lauzon hopes to have a permit to build by this fall, so that construction could potentially be underway by next winter.
Downtown Smoking Ban Petition Rejected
A petition to ban smoking on four downtown Montpelier streets garnered 1,537 signatures, including those of 47 business owners, but that was not enough to convince the City Council to adopt the plan at its June 27 meeting. Instead, a hearing on the petition, which was brought by Montpelier resident Ron Merkin, ended with calls by Mayor Anne Watson for more discussion and work on the issue.
During public comments, several residents supported the ban, including the mother of a child with asthma, a runner and biker, and a woman who witnessed a toddler walking through a cloud of cigarette smoke downtown. But two smokers who spoke said the ban would infringe on their civil liberties, and business owner Yvonne Baab said that while she views smoking as “the stupidest things people can do to themselves,” she was opposed the ban because it would be bad for business and would promote an already-existing view that Montpelier is an elitist town. City Clerk John Odom said he feared a smoking ban might make working-class people, who tend to smoke more, feel unwelcome in Montpelier.
Other concerns were raised about the enforceability of the ordinance and where smokers would go to smoke. Councilor Dona Bate, the lone supporter of the ban, said smokers complained about civil liberties when bans on smoking on airplanes, in restaurants and in bars were put in place, but noted that the bans have proved workable and helped reduce smoking and second-hand smoke exposure.
The Council had previously rejected another proposed downtown smoking ban in 2015. It has banned smoking in city parks and parklets, however.