LYNDON — Less flood risk, more park land.
The Caledonia County Natural Resources Conservation District (CCNRCD) has announced plans to accomplish both goals at once.
CCNRCD wants to put 791 Main St. (the former LynBurke Motel) under a conservation easement through the state Flood Resilient Communities Fund (FRCF) program.
Doing so would preserve the floodplain for the Passumpsic River at the Route 5/114/122 intersection, one of the town’s most problematic flood zones.
And because the property would be town-owned, it could become part of Sanborn Covered Bridge Park. The historic bridge crosses the river and connects the proposed park site (two acres) with 791 Main St. (2.8 acres).
CCNRCD described the conservation easement as a two-for-one deal that would support a couple of high-priority town objectives: Flood mitigation and downtown revitalization.
Seeking town support, CCNRCD manager Emily Finnegan wrote, “The former LynBurke Motel site has undergone major transformation in the past year. The old motel is gone, and the Sanborn Covered Bridge is the prominent feature that welcomes everyone into Lyndon from Route 122, 5 or 114. Without the motel there, potential damage to property and people during a flooding event has diminished as well.”
“These are great steps forward in celebrating and showcasing what Lyndon has to offer, sharing with others its sense of place and pride, acknowledging that flooding is a serious natural hazard to the town, and demonstrating that actions are being taken to reduce that risk.”
Despite concerns about removing the property from the grand list, the Select Board on Monday voted 3-0 for CCNRCD to proceed with their blessing. The vote is non-binding.
“I’m in favor of this idea, I really like coming to the end of Route 114 and being able to see the Sanborn Bridge. I think it’s a beautiful piece of property, or it has the potential to be a beautiful piece of property. My concern is the maintenance,” said board member Nancy Blankenship. “I don’t foresee any development on that property that would benefit our community more.”
“I’m not opposed to taking the next step,” said board member Kermit Fisher. “But I think if we keep taking stuff off the tax roll, it’s tough enough to live in this state as it is. [But] yes I would be in favor of this at this point.”
Although he worried that conservation easement restrictions might leave the property looking “like an abandoned lot … that isn’t cared for,” Chair Chris Thompson said he heard enough information that “I think there is enough latitude in the rules to keep it looking presentable and usable. So it’s not just a place to get ticks.”
CCNRCD will pursue the easement through the FRCF program, administered by Vermont Emergency Management, which offers buyouts of flood prone properties.
FRCF purchases flood-prone properties, restores them, places conservation easements on them to prevent future development, and turns them over for municipal ownership.
791 Main St. owner Joe Buzzi has expressed preliminary interest in selling the property through an FRCF buyout.
“As the owner, [Buzzi] signs a voluntary participation form, noting that he does not have to accept the buyout offer and he can back out of the process at any time,” Finnegan wrote.
If the property becomes part of Sanborn Covered Bridge Park, the conservation easement would allow for minimal park infrastructure such as walking trails and seasonal benches, but not permanent structures.
Finnegan said a conservation easement would prevent future development in the flood zone, potentially lessen flood impacts at the intersection and downriver, and meet the goals of the 2023 Hazard Mitigation Plan.
The Hazard Mitigation Plan identified flood risk reduction as a primary objective. Specifically, flood risk at the Route 5/114/122 intersection.
In February, the town moved to secure state funding for a scoping study, to evaluate two flood mitigation projects for the intersection.
One would redesign, or replace, dry culverts located downriver (south) of the intersection and the other would reconnect the river with floodplain storage upriver (north) of the intersection.
Post a comment as anonymous
Watch this discussion.
Welcome to the discussion.
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.