Environmental groups have asked state regulators to reject a massive development proposed for off Interstate 89 in Randolph that would, if built, be one of the largest projects ever in Vermont.
In a letter to the District 3 Environmental Commission, the Conservation Law Foundation and the Vermont Natural Resources Council say that Connecticut developer Jesse "Sam" Sammis has repeatedly failed to show that his proposed Green Mountain Center complies with Act 250 protections for farmland and open space.
Sammis wants to transform 178 acres of forest and farmland into a development with 274 homes, a 180-room hotel and conference center, more than 500,000 square feet of office and light industrial space, a 10,000-square-foot fitness center and an interstate rest stop with an attached retail outlet.
“This sprawling project is a enormous waste of agricultural soils,” said Brian Shupe, executive director of the Vermont Natural Resources Council, in a prepared statement. “If this project gets approved, in this location, no farmland in Vermont is safe.”
"The applicant utterly failed to show that the proposed project meets the clear Act 250 standards for protecting valuable farmland," said Sandra Levine, senior attorney at the Conservation Law Foundation, in the same statement. "The appropriate action is to dismiss the applicant's request."
The commission was not convinced that the plan fit Vermont's land-use regulations, commission chair Tim Taylor wrote. "We invite the applicant to present a new plan showing a more compact design," he wrote. Taylor also asked Sammis to present the commission with a full list of his extensive land holdings in Randolph. Critics of Sammis have argued that any new development should occur on his other properties.
But environmental groups say the time for discussion is over. To allow Sammis to return with updated plans would drag out the process and encourage developers in the future to submit "poor project plans," they said in their letter. "Act 250 is a process to submit a proposal and get a decision," the environmental groups wrote. "That is what applicants frequently say they want. It is not a process to design a project by committee."
Sammis did not respond immediately to a request for comment Monday afternoon. He has previously told Seven Days that his project would bring needed economic activity to Randolph and that he intentionally left several fields open to placate his opponents' concerns. "They ought to have their arms around me saying, 'Holy smokes, what a good job you've done!'" Sammis said. "I'm a conservationist. I've saved the most valuable land as open space."
The Green Mountain Center, which has been in the making for several years, has won the backing of the Randolph business community, the town's selectboard and its development review board. However, in recent months, a coalition of citizens, Exit 4 Open Space, and environmental groups have begun to fight the project.