About the Planned Development at Rice Woods

 

    In May, 2003 the Shelburne Planning Commission gave approval to developers to build 62 homes on the 33 acre property known as Rice Woods.  The decision was immediately appealed to the Vermont Environmental Court by a group of concerned Shelburne residents.  The appeal argues that the proposed residential development (PRD) does not meet the town's subdivision regulations, and is not in compliance with the Shelburne Town Plan.

    The court hearings for the appeal of this PRD concluded in September, 2004.  The Vermont Environmental Court has just issued a decision in the case (August, 2005).  The proposed single-family development has been denied.  Please refer to our Press Release for details.

    Rice Woods is located on rocky terrain (ledges), with very thin soils.  A great deal of blasting and earth moving will be required in order to carve out roadways, sewers and foundations for the homes.  It is estimated that in some locations they will need to import as much as ten feet of soil for landscaping.  The developers claim that they will leave untouched small portions of the existing natural communities in areas surrounding the individual houses (which they call "building envelopes").  A narrow 150-foot strip of land between the houses and the nearby cliffs is also being set aside as "open space."  However, the majority of the acreage on this property will be converted to homes, streets and grassy lawns.  In effect, the natural communities represented at Rice Woods will be destroyed by the development, even though a few plants may be left in the open spaces between the homes and along the cliffs.  It will no longer be an intact, functioning ecosystem.  Rather, it will be a barely identifiable remnant of the glorious ecosystem that used to exist many years ago.  Many of the native plants that remain in the so-called "open space" will eventually die from a host of factors, including habitat change, competition from exotic weeds that are introduced by the development, pollution, and disturbance from trampling, pets and the use of recreational vehicles.

    Destroying Rice Woods by blasting and bull-dozing it away doesn't exactly show that the developers are "paying due regard for the preservation and protection of existing features, trees, scenic points, . . ., rock outcroppings, water bodies, other natural resources . . ." as required by the Shelburne subdivision regulations.

   A 62 home development on a 33 acre property is a very dense development.  If completed, the large, new subdivision would greatly contribute to traffic congestion along the Route 7 corridor, especially being so close to the central village.

    As the slide show featured on this website demonstrates, Rice Woods is an ecologically sensitive area.  It contains a number of state uncommon plant species, which are rare outside the Champlain Valley of Vermont and elsewhere in the region.  In addition, there are several uncommon natural communities represented within Rice Woods.  This property is also an important habitat for a number of animal species, including bobcats.  It is an important part of the connectivity of wildlife habitats that crosses the town.   And, it is adjacent to a large Nature Conservancy preserve.

In short, Rice Woods is no ordinary woodlot that was spoiled by agriculture and logging years ago.  It is an intact, functioning, beautiful ecosystem - rich and biologically diverse - and should be preserved for generations to appreciate.

    Though readers' curiosity about Rice Woods may have been raised by this website, we strongly recommend that you DO NOT try to visit the Rice Woods property.  It is private property and is posted for NO TRESPASSING.  The owners, developers and appellants do not wish to have anyone on site at this time due to the ongoing litigation.  Please do not go there.  If you wish to find out more about Rice Woods or the PRD, or to make a contribution, please Contact Us  via email or phone.

Thank you.

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