DERBY - The Derby Planning Commission was split on a motion to grant Bill Simendinger a demolition permit to tear down two commercial Derby Line buildings.
The hearing on the issue, which had been tabled, was reopened Monday evening and then closed following brief testimony. Planners went into deliberative session, emerged, and a motion to grant the demolition permit with a condition was made by planner Dave LaBelle and seconded by planner Jim Bumps.
Planner Richard DelFavero said no. Chairman Joe Proferra also voted no. Former planner Cynthia Adams officially resigned from the board a few weeks ago due to a scheduling conflict, so the vote was tied.
The Planning Board has 45 days to work on the issue, otherwise it will go to Environmental Court.
The Zoning Board of Adjustment denied Simendinger a permit, which is currently under appeal in Environmental Court.
The Planning Board has already approved Simendinger’s site plan.
Mitch Wonson, the Derby Line trustee’s consultant, announced during the meeting that Simendinger is going to have to obtain an access permit from the village. Simendinger’s plans call for work in the village right-of-way.
The condition on the motion stated that the board would approve Simendinger’s latest plans as long as he provides a construction plan done by a Vermont licensed engineer for exterior stairs. One of the buildings Simendinger wants to demolish is attached to Roland (Buzzy) Roy’s building, which has a drug store on the first floor and private housing upstairs. The stairwell is attached to Roy’s building and Simendinger’s building. Roy has expressed concern over what would happened to the stairs when the building came down.
Simendinger promised to work out the issue.
Karen Jenne, who wears many hats in the village and town, was at the meeting speaking in her role on the Cemetery Commission. She expressed concerns over the erosion problems with the cemetery directly behind Simendinger’s properties. The properties run along the Tomifobia River.
The cemetery commission is seeking help from the state to stabilize the fragile area.
Jenne also expressed concern over further erosion at the site and is worried that working on the adjacent land will make existing problems worse.
Simendinger wants to level the site and build a gas station and min-mart. Village trustees and a number of residents have spoken out strongly against the plan. Harm to the character of the village, displaced residents, and lost jobs are cited as concerns with Simendinger's plan.
“This will tear a hole in the heart of downtown Derby Line,” Wanson said.
The site would be leveled and grass would be planted while plans unfold on what to do with the space.
Derby Line resident Chris Blais asked if anything would be erected when the buildings come down to warn people of the steep drop off to the river at the edge of the property, noting that many children frequent the village downtown area. The concern went unanswered but may come up again when the access permit is sought as it deals with pedestrian safety issues.