Differing Viewpoints in Randolph
Neighbors Voice Concerns About Gifford Housing Proposal
Bill and Trudy DeFlorio, of Randolph Center, lead a group gathered yesterday for a site visit of the proposed Gifford Hospital assisted-living facility to their backyard to get a sense of the project’s impact on the DeFlorios’ view of the Green Mountains. The District 3 Environmental Commission held the site visit and a hearing to examine changes to the project since its last review. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Civil engineer John Benson of Dubois and King looks over site plans during a visit to the proposed site of Gifford Hospital’s new nursing home and assisted living facility. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Andre St. Denis shows where his property abuts the Gifford Hospital property in Randolph Center during a hearing of the District 3 Environmental Commission in Randolph yesterday. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
During a recess, Gifford Hospital's Director of Facilities Tyson Moulton, left, talks with landscape architect John Steele in Randolph. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Gifford Hospital CEO Joe Woodin presents the hospital's plans to build a nursing home and assisted living facility in Randolph Center. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Randolph — After more than a year of working through the impacts of a proposed senior living complex on agricultural land, a hearing yesterday focused on air pollution, traffic and abutters’ frustration over a spoiled view of the mountains.
Gifford Medical Center is planning to build a 30-bed nursing home and four additional buildings for senior living for a total of about 150 beds off of Route 66 in Randolph Center.
During the last year, hospital officials have had to downsize the project in an effort to win state approval. The original proposal was for 165 beds in multiple buildings spread over 25 acres. The latest version of the proposal is for 150 beds on just 14 acres.
Currently, Randolph-area senior citizens are often forced to relocate to nursing homes or assisted-living facilities as far away as Lebanon and Burlington. Gifford Medical Center’s 30-bed nursing home has a waiting list that is often 100 people long, said Joe Woodin, Gifford’s administrator. And Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center in Windsor recently announced it will close its 25-bed nursing home this fall.
“We sort of feel that this is our mission,” Woodin said during yesterday’s Act 250 hearing. “We want to meet the need, but we also do the medical component. We feel that we are the best folks to do this. We feel it’s the right time and the right particular project.”
Act 250 is Vermont’s wide-ranging land use law that applies to most large-scale developments.
A group of about 30 participated in a site visit yesterday morning, and as they turned left off Route 66 onto a dirt driveway, they were greeted by a view of an undisturbed valley and a mountain vista under a cloudless sky.
Among the attendees were members of Gifford’s board of trustees, abutting property owners and other residents with no direct stake in the development.
Tyson Moulton, director of facilities at Gifford, stood behind a wooden stick with a pink flag attached at the top. The stick indicated where the entrance to the nursing home would be constructed. Farther down the property were wooden sticks with white flags, which indicated the footprint for a 40-unit independent living facility.
Right now, Gifford officials are only seeking approval for the first phase of the project — a 30-bed nursing home and a 40-unit independent living facility. Officials plan to come back before the Act 250 commission when they are ready to build the other three buildings.
The parcel is sloped, and Theron Manning, strategic project director for Gifford, explained that the construction phase would remove 15 to 18 feet of soil and ideally lower the buildings so that abutters’ scenic views could be partially preserved.
“You have to visualize this piece of land sinking down,” Manning said.
When Tim Taylor, chairman of District 3 Environmental Commission, which oversees the Act 250 process, asked if there were any neighbors present, Bill DeFlorio raised his hand.
“We’re concerned about the height of the building,” DeFlorio said. “Looking at it from our house, it blocks all of the foreground except for the top of the mountain.”
Taylor suggested that the group walk to DeFlorio’s backyard and take a look. All 30 men and women stood with their backs facing DeFlorio’s white house and looked toward the pink and white flags. Two white balloons swayed in the wind. Each balloon was meant to show the highest point of each building.
“It covers everything except the top of the mountain,” Amy St. Denis, another neighbor, said to DeFlorio.
“Yes, it does,” DeFlorio said.
After the site visit, the group gathered in the basement of Town Hall for a 21/2-hour hearing. Most of the three commissioners’ concerns dealt with traffic flow and air pollution. Taylor and abutters worried about dust during the construction. While John Benson of DuBois & King reassured Taylor that the soil would be kept moist to prevent fly off, Taylor took it a step further and suggested the construction crew keep a water truck on the premise.
St. Denis and her husband, Andre, own a 10-acre parcel abutting the Gifford development and they voiced concerns about storm runoff. Benson said a retention pond near the edge of the property is meant to catch any run off before it would affect their property.
Amy St. Denis works at Vermont Technical College, which is across the street from the proposed development, and she expressed concern about traffic congestion.
Benson told St. Denis and the commissioners that this project should have a limited impact on traffic because nursing homes typically don’t generate traffic during peak commuter hours.
“They aren’t heading to go out to work at 7 a.m.,” Benson said. “We won’t have 100 people coming in and going out at set shifts.”
It was aesthetic impact of the project, however, that generated the most discussion.
“We would just like to find a way so that so much of our view isn’t hidden by the building,” Bill DeFlorio said.
Moulton showed the DeFlorios a photo that had been taken from their backyard and then altered to include a mock-up of where the nursing home would sit and how it would affect their view.
Trudy DeFlorio asked if more photos could be taken from other angles around her porch, and Moulton said they could
“We’re not here to be a thorn in your side,” Trudy DeFlorio said. “We’re here because we need to ask these questions.”
Trudy DeFlorio added she’s worried about how the development would affect her property’s resale value.
“We want to make sure this is as good as it can be not just for you, but for us too,” she said.
The commission recessed the hearing yesterday afternoon and likely will issue a recess order early next week to request additional information from Gifford Medical Center, said Linda Matteson, the District 3 coordinator. Other parties will have the chance to respond to the new filings.
As the DeFlorios left the hearing, Trudy DeFlorio was still carrying the altered photo meant to give her an idea of her new obstructed view and quipped, “We should have these framed.”
Sarah Brubeck can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3223.