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The commission found that Spector's subdivision was far enough away from critical bear habitat and found that proposed conservation buffers were enough to protect habitat.
After a final deliberative session on July 18, the planning commission issued the decision on July 19. The subdivision is in or near the Slide Brook area of Fayston where there is bear habitat that is considered by some to be critical. Last month, the planning commission denied a seven-lot subdivision requested by Bob Crean on land above Slide Brook Road.
In reaching the decision on the Spector subdivision, the planning commission considered much of the same bear habitat information it used in the Crean subdivision. (The Crean denial has been appealed to Vermont Environmental Court.) The Spector subdivision is slated for a 28.7-acre parcel in the town's recreation district where the town plan calls for a "compact settlement pattern that minimizes the impact on sensitive lands through the use of Planned Unit and Planned Residential Development provisions. In addition, the purpose is to encourage tourist accommodations, vacation homes, recreation and cultural facilities in a manner compatible with the town."
The land is adjacent to the land where Sugarbush's Slide Brook intertie lift runs. That lift was the subject of Act 250 review and specific findings regarding protection of bear habitat were included in that permit. The planning commission reviewed testimony from state biologist John Austin who first said the Spector parcel appeared to be in the vicinity of a significant black bear travel corridor, but who then clarified his position by stating that, "I would be inclined to the view that the project would not result in any adverse impacts to the habitat. Along the same lines, this is premised on keeping the development focused on the lower elevation portions of the property rather than the higher elevations."
"In determining the proposed subdivision's proximity to critical bear habitat, the planning commission relied on information and maps contained in the Act 250 application/permit for Sugarbush Resort Holdings, Inc. (Exhibit 11), letters from Arrowwood Environmental (Exhibits 3 and 4), letters from John Austin (Exhibits 1 and 2), a letter from Gunner McCain dated June 5, 2006 (Exhibit 6), and maps approximating the proposed Spector subdivision in relation to bear-scarred beech trees (Exhibits 9 and 10)," commissioners wrote in their decision.
They also noted that existing development on Horseshoe Road and the Lozman property are closer to identified bear habitat than the Spector project with its conservation area.
Specific conditions spelled out in the permit call for having the town zoning board of adjustment approve the final road grades and the select board approving a curb cut. The commissioners also asked for a letter indicating that Act 250 has no jurisdiction over the application. Commissioners placed restrictions on clearing land on three of the lots and banned birdfeeders from April 1 to December 1.