Public Notice of Grant Activities for CAE Yellow Barn Project Fit-Up - Open Comment Period

February 12, 2024

NOTICE OF AVAILABILITY
The Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC) has independently reviewed the following
Environmental Assessment (EA) prepared by the Economic Development Administration (EDA) ,
completed on January 30, 2020 : Hardwick Yellow Barn and Business Accelerator Environmental
Assessment (hereinafter “the 2020 EA”). NBRC has determined that the proposed action analyzed under
the 2020 EA adequately covers the Proposed Action under consideration by NBRC, and the information
and analysis presented in the 2020 EA are still accurate and sufficient. NBRC has chosen to adopt the
2020 EA prepared by EDA for the Proposed Action. The adoption of another agency’s final EA is
permissible under 40 CFR 1506.3 for the purpose of eliminating duplication.
Application #: NBRC23GVT02
Applicant: The Center for an Agricultural Economy
Project Title: Hardwick Yellow Barn Business Accelerator
Location: 281 VT RT 15 W, Hardwick, Vermont
Project Description: The purpose of the Proposed Action is to renovate the historic Hardwick “Yellow
Barn” and construct a business accelerator building at 281 Vt Route 15 W, Hardwick, VT. The 4.7-acre
site currently houses the iconic “Yellow Barn,” which is on the state historic register and will be retained
and restored as part of the Yellow Barn business accelerator complex. The barn will be leased by Cabot
Creamery Cooperative to showcase its signature cheese as well as other local foods at the gateway to
Hardwick’s downtown. Adjacent to and west of the Yellow Barn is an existing parking lot on which a new
~25,000 sq. ft. building designed to accommodate two tenants, one of whom is the Center for an
Agriculture Economy (CAE), who will lease approximately half of the space in the new building to locate
its distribution and logistics service, Farm Connex. The other half of the facility will be leased by Jasper
Hill for distribution and mail order fulfillment.
Findings and Adoption of EA: Based on the analysis presented in the 2020 EA, NBRC has determined
that funding the Yellow Barn renovation and Business Accelerator construction would not have a
significant impact on the human or natural environment. The determination of a finding of no significant
impact (FONSI) is consistent with what is presented in the 2020 EA and EDA’s determination. An
environmental impact statement will not be prepared.
Document Request: The 2020 EA and NBRC’s FONSI are available upon request. Please send an email
request to nepa@nbrc.gov for this documentation. The 2020 EA and FONSI will be provided in electronic
format unless a hard copy is specifically requested.


Final Notice and Public Explanation of a Proposed Activity
in a Floodplain – Hardwick, Vermont

To: All interested Agencies, Groups, and Individuals
The Center for an Agricultural Economy (the grantee) intends to complete the following Proposed Action with funding
from the Northern Border Regional Commission’s (NBRC’s) Catalyst Program. NBRC has prepared an 8-Step
Decision-Making Process review in compliance with Executive Order (EO) 11988 (Floodplain Management) as
amended by Executive Order 13690 (Establishing a Federal Flood Risk Management Standard and a Process for
Further Soliciting and Considering Stakeholder Input).
The purpose of the Proposed Action is to renovate the historic Hardwick “Yellow Barn” and construct a business
accelerator building at 281 Vt Route 15 W, Hardwick, VT. The 4.7-acre site currently houses the iconic “Yellow Barn,”
which is on the state historic register and will be retained and restored as part of the Yellow Barn business
accelerator complex. The barn will be leased by Cabot Creamery Cooperative to showcase its signature cheese as
well as other local foods at the gateway to Hardwick’s downtown. Adjacent to and west of the Yellow Barn is an
existing parking lot on which a new ~25,000 sq. ft. building designed to accommodate 2 tenants, one of whom is the
Center for an Agriculture Economy (CAE), who will lease approximately half of the space in the new building to locate
its distribution and logistics service, Farm Connex. The other half of the facility will be leased by Jasper Hill for
distribution and mail order fulfillment.
The applicant considered the following alternatives in selecting the Proposed Action:
No action alternative: The no action alternative would result in the accelerator building remaining unbuilt and the
yellow barn remaining unrenovated. The no action alternative would not address the commercial business
development needs of the Hardwick community.
Alternative site: In February 2018, a Feasibility Study conducted by Kitchen Table Consultants in collaboration with
the Northeastern Vermont Development Association (NVDA) and the Town of Hardwick assessed three properties
within the town. The findings revealed that the property situated at 281 VT RTE 15 West in Hardwick emerged as the
most suitable for industrial commercial activities. Positioned in close proximity to the Town's wastewater treatment
facility, with access to town water and adjacency to the major highway, VT RTE 15, this location resides in a highly
commercialized industrial zone of the town. Alternative sites were deemed impractical due to their cost-prohibitive
nature and their inability to offer the community and economic advantages associated with having commercial
business spaces within the Town of Hardwick.
Nature-based approach alternative: EO 13690 requires federal agencies to consider nature-based approaches
when developing project alternatives. “Nature-based approach” is an umbrella term for project features designed to
mimic, restore, manage, and conserve natural processes to increase resilience. 1 Nature-based approaches were
considered as alternatives to the Proposed Action. However, no viable nature-based alternatives were identified that
would still meet the needs of the Proposed Action.
Property impacts: The estimated cost of the Proposed Action is $1,696,788.0, with $500,000 sourced from NBRC
funds. This represents an additional property and monetary value not currently present at the proposed location. It is
crucial to note that only a small portion of the property within the FFRMS floodplain is occupied by a parking lot. This
area is expected to experience minimal damage during a flood event. Furthermore, even in the event of damage, the
repair costs for this limited section of the parking lot are anticipated to be relatively low.
1 Nature-based approaches can take the form of green infrastructure or natural infrastructure. Green infrastructure consists of projects
that combine gray infrastructure with nature-based solutions to create hybrid systems that improve resilience to climate impacts, while
natural infrastructure consists of projects that use natural landscapes to increase resilience to climate impacts.

Impacts to lives: The commercial buildings planned for the proposed development are strategically situated outside
the FFRMS floodplain, minimizing the direct threat to human lives. It is important to note that the primary focus of the
development involves these non-floodplain areas, ensuring the safety and well-being of occupants. While a small
portion of the parking lot falls within the floodplain, this section would have a minimal impact on human lives. As
commercial buildings are the primary assets, the potential disruption to business operations and associated
economic activities due to flooding in the parking lot is expected to be limited.
Natural values impacts: The Proposed Action would restore and preserve the floodplain and wetland areas,
employing various stormwater management techniques. Stormwater from a significant drainage area would be
directed through pre-treatment swales and dry swales before discharging into the Lamoille River. Floodplain and
wetland management will involve grading parking lot sub-catchment areas, directing runoff to an underground
infiltration chamber, and utilizing a voluntary buffer protection zone to enhance resilience. To minimize construction
impacts, fill material will be removed post-construction from specified areas, with measures such as reinforced silt
fencing and barriers in place. These efforts aim to protect and restore essential habitats, promote proper filtration,
and sustain the ecological health of the floodplain.
It is NBRC’s determination that due to 1) the identification of sufficient mitigation, 2) the lack of practicable
alternatives, and 3) the importance of the Proposed Action to address the needs of the Hardwick community, the
importance of the Proposed Action in the floodplain outweighs the requirements of EO 11988 and EO 13690 to avoid
direct or indirect support of floodplain development and reduce the risk of flood loss.
Files that document compliance with steps 1 through 6 of EO 11988 (as amended by EO 13690) are available for
public inspection, upon request. Please send an email request to nepa@nbrc.gov. The 8-Step Decision-Making
Process materials will be provided in electronic format unless a hard copy is specifically requested.
This notice provides people who may be affected by activities in the floodplain and those who have an interest in the
protection of the natural environment an opportunity to express their concerns and provide information. NBRC is
accepting comments on this notice from Feb. 14, 2024, through the end of the day of Feb. 21, 2024. Comments
should be submitted by email to nepa@nbrc.gov.
Date of Posting: Feb. 12, 2024