Agreement clears way for Lowes in South Burlington

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(Host) A long-running legal battle over stormwater pollution in Vermont has been settled.

The agreement between the Conservation Law Foundation and Lowe’s Home Center clears the way for the company to build its first store in Vermont.

As part of the deal, Lowe’s has agreed to expand a stormwater treatment system to handle run-off from its own site and from neighboring property in South Burlington.
VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) The two sides were bitter legal adversaries. For more than five years, the Conservation Law Foundation had blocked the giant retailer’s plans to build a large store in a South Burlington shopping plaza. The various legal disputes have wound their way through the Water Resources Board and to the Vermont Supreme Court. But on Wednesday, CLF Vermont director Chris Kilian and Lowe’s site developer Rob Jess went to the vacant lot and shook hands.

Kilian said Lowe’s has committed to cleaning up all the stormwater pollution from the shopping center.

(Kilian) “Lowe’s deserves a lot of credit today for embracing the challenge that CLF has been posing for development projects for this site in South Burlington.”

(Dillon) The South Burlington site is in the watershed of Potash Brook. The stream is a tributary of Lake Champlain and it’s been heavily damaged by silt and other run-off from nearby development.
Under the agreement, Lowe’s will retrofit the stormwater treatment system that handles the run-off from its own 12-acre site.

Rob Jess, the Lowe’s senior site development director, says the company will also treat additional stormwater that flows into the brook from a neighboring parcel.

(Jess) “The ends result of that complete, I refer to it as the total stormwater package, is that should help accelerate the clean up of Potash Brook, which I think is the ultimate goal here.”

(Dillon) Lowe’s has also promised to work with CLF on the design of future Lowe’s stores in Vermont. This plan includes a “green roof” program that uses plants to absorb water rather than allowing it to run off into nearby streams.

Kilian said the agreement shows that development can go ahead in watersheds that have been already damaged by pollution.

(Kilian) “I’m not speaking for Lowe’s here but CLF has heard too often from the agency of natural resources that these types of solutions are too hard and don’t exist. And everywhere we look in these watersheds we see these types of opportunities and as new investment comes in or as redevelopment occurs or as sites are identified that need to be cleaned up, these solutions are out there and we can have clean water and we can have responsible development.”

(Dillon) Lowe’s estimates the new stormwater work will cost an additional $250,000. The company still needs to get amended permits from the state, but it hopes to open its first store in Vermont by the summer of 2008.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in South Burlington.

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