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Tuesday February 19, 2008 Edition
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Gailer School Loses Bid To Relocate To Industrial Park

Tuesday February 19, 2008

By Dale Piper

   On Monday evening, February 11, the Middlebury Planning and Zoning Board voted unanimously to deny the Gailer School's application to relocate their facility to the Mainelli building in the Middlebury Industrial Park.  There was much impassioned testimony on both sides of the question, with Gailer School parents and staff on one side and Industrial Park business owners on the other.

   Dutton Smith, Chair of the Site Committee and Vice-Chair of the School Board presented Gailer's rebuttals to the major objections to the move, specifically school, truck and pedestrian traffic, the stated industrial use of the area and the fact that the school would not oppose future industry in the park.  Also presented was a petition opposing the school's position by Tony Neri, signed by Industrial Park business owners and management.   Some parents of Gailer students felt that if this site were not available the school might have to close.

   Smith stated, “We had all been working under the assumption that the town could not regulate the location of schools based on Title 24, Chapter 117, Section 4413 of the Vermont Statutes, but that is not the case.”  That statute reads, “ [Schools] may be regulated only with respect to location, size, height, building bulk, yards, courts, setbacks, density of buildings, off-street parking, loading facilities, traffic, noise, lighting, landscaping, and screening requirements, and only to the extent that regulations do not have the effect of interfering with the intended functional use…”  Essentially, a town cannot deny a school locating within a town, but can regulate, among other things, safety concerns, which is apparently what drove the commission's vote.

   The school has been searching for some time now for a permanent location, as they are in temporary quarters, sharing space with the Unitarian-Universalist Society on Cross and Water Streets.  But staff and parents feel that the present arrangement is preventing the school's growth, specifically attracting new students.  The consensus at the school was that the Mainelli building suited all the requirements that the school was seeking.

   According to Smith, Gailer will be considering other options “including an effort to get schools added to the list of conditional uses.”  

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