Baby care, lodging, recreation plans weighed for SVC campus | Native Information

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BENNINGTON — Southwestern Vermont health officials are considering new uses for the former Southern Vermont College campus — from expanding day care to converting the Everett Mansion into tourist lodging.

According to Public Information Officer Ray Smith, the organization’s primary focus for now is to complete the $28 million emergency department expansion currently under construction.

FINANCING PROVIDED

Smith and Kevin Dailey, SVHC’s vice president of administration and chief human resources officer, said hospital officials were pleased to learn that Vermont’s U.S. Senators have allocated more than $800,000 in federal funding to expand the hospital’s child care services . They said an SVHC proposal to expand childcare was one of many submitted to lawmakers for possible federal funding purposes in 2022, and it emerged among the proposals that made the list.

More than $200 million has been allocated to all projects across the state. For the SVHC proposal, Leahy has earmarked $750,000 and Sanders $77,000 in its funding applications.

CHILDCARE

The proposal is to expand the Learning Tree childcare facility currently located at the medical center and licensed for 59 childcare places. The new plan would move the center to a new, double-capacity facility on the 371-acre former college campus.

“This is exciting,” Smith said of the funding goals, “and we’re definitely looking into significantly increasing childcare capacity.”

But he and Dailey warned that, like other proposals SVHC is considering for the campus site, there is “no formal plan” and no cost figures have been developed. Additionally, they said, SVHC officials have yet to hear details about how federal funding for 2022 will be distributed and whether there may be restrictions or guidelines that need to be weighed.

Regarding earmarking for potential funding, Dailey said, “It just means we can apply for a grant now.”

That will require preliminary architectural plans, he said, along with approval from the SVHC Board of Trustees to proceed.

Officials said talks have begun with an architect and proposed sites for a childcare facility are being evaluated. A location along Monument Avenue is considered most practical.

“The wheels are moving, and that’s the direction we’re hoping to go,” Dailey said of the pursuit for Grant.

CITIZENS’ REGISTER

SVHC acquired the former college property in December 2020 during a bankruptcy court auction for $4.65 million. Since then, proposals for redevelopment have been solicited by the public and other stakeholders.

SVHC has identified an expansion of childcare services; use of the Everett Mansion as a venue; additional medical facilities and new or improved hiking trails; a lookout tower atop Mt. Anthony on property; and other shelter or recreation oriented projects as priorities.

ZONATION CHANGE

Plans for the Everett Mansion or other campus sites for tourist lodging or lodging use must await changes in the city’s land use and development regulations to allow for such uses in the institutional/professional zoning district.

The zoning district would expand to include portions of the former college campus and add hotels, lodging, outdoor recreation and related development projects to the list of permitted uses in the district, with approval of the Development Review Board.

The institutional/professional district now includes the medical center campus, the Mount Anthony Union High School campus, and the grounds of the Vermont Veterans’ Home.

The proposed changes would allow lodgings in the district west of Monument Avenue.

The Everett Mansion itself is subject to preservation restrictions imposed by the Preservation Trust of Vermont for preservation, which would need to be considered in any reuse project. In addition, nearly 200 mostly wooded acres behind the mansion at the base of Mt. Anthony are protected by an easement from the Vermont Land Trust.

The stone mansion was built by industrialist Edward Everett in 1911-14 as a summer residence. Southern Vermont College acquired and relocated to the property from another location in Bennington in the 1970s.

The campus of the former university, which closed in 2019, comprises a dozen buildings in total.

HEARINGS DISCONTINUED

The land use changes were unanimously approved by the Planning Commission earlier this month and are now before the Select Board for review.

“Our top priority now is zoning,” Dailey said, “and how that plays out will determine our options.”

City planning director Daniel Monks said the board has scheduled public hearings on the proposal for May 9 and 23, which will take place before a vote on land-use changes.

The proposed changes will be posted on the city’s website.

CURRENT USES

The medical center had used the parking lot near the 27-room Everett Mansion for a drive-through COVID-19 testing site during the height of the pandemic, but those services are moving to the SVC athletic facility further down the driveway.

COVID-19 vaccinations provided during clinics at the sports center will be moved to the Express Care Center on the medical center’s campus and to local pharmacies and doctor’s offices, officials said.