Updated at 5:20 p.m. with statement from Exit 4 Open Space.
State regulators have dealt a blow to a Connecticut developer's plans for a massive commercial and residential project off Interstate 89 in Randolph.
In a ruling last week, the District 3 Environmental Commission asked Jesse "Sam" Sammis to scale back a project in order to protect several open fields where he proposed to build apartments and other structures.
"At present, the commission is not persuaded that the project as designed is compact enough to satisfy [land-use regulations]," commission chair Tim Taylor wrote. "We invite the applicant to present a new plan showing a more compact design."
While the Randolph business community and local government have backed the project, which Sammis calls the Green Mountain Center, a citizens group has called it disproportionate for the community of 4,800 people. Critics have questioned why Sammis would build on open land when he owns several other parcels closer to downtown. A Seven Days tally found that Sammis owned 1,400 acres worth $12.6 million in Randolph.
The commission, which enforces Act 250, Vermont's land-use law, expressed some interest in that point. It asked Sammis to identify his holdings in Randolph. "This list should include the location of each parcel, its size and a statement regarding its suitability for relocating some or all of the office, residential or light industrial components of the project," Taylor wrote.
Sammis' attorney, Pete Van Oot, described the commission's response to the Valley News as "constructive feedback" and told the paper he'll file a written response. The next hearing is scheduled for August 17.
David Hurwitz, spokesman for the opposition group Exit 4 Open Space, said members welcome the commission’s early ruling but warned they do not want the see the proposed project go forward even on a smaller piece of land.
“This proposed development … is larger than the entire commercial space in downtown Randolph,” Hurwitz said. “The commission has not asked the developer to reduce the square footage; they have only asked him to cram it into a 'clustered' and more compact space to preserve soil. But there is no need to build another town by the highway, three miles away from the downtown, nor is there a need for a Connecticut developer to bring Connecticut-style suburban development to Randolph.”