Archive - Mar 24, 2008
By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — Local planners and developers joined the Douglas administration last week in panning a House-passed affordable housing bill they said was more of an anti-sprawl measure that would not substantially boost the state’s stock of low-cost homes.
The bill, which received final approval in the House on Wednesday by a 79-61 tally, proposes to create economic incentives and streamline the Act 250 permitting process for developers proposing projects containing at least 20-percent affordable housing in and around designated downtowns and villages.
The bill also amends criterion 9L of Act 250 in a manner that opponents believe will make it harder to develop housing in rural areas and communities that don’t yet have designated downtowns and villages.
“I don’t doubt that the intentions of the bill are worthy, but the unintended consequences will be just the opposite of what it’s hoping to accomplish,” said Bill Sayre, a Bristol resident and leader of Associated Industries of Vermont, an organization that advocates for public policy that protects the “private enterprise economy” in the state.
Sayre and other opponents of the bill argue that it may actually make it harder for developers to build affordable housing — even at the monetary threshold prescribed by the legislation. That threshold is 80 percent of Vermont Housing Finance Agency’s limit for new homes, which translates to $219,200 in Addison County — an amount that many argue is too high to be considered affordable. The legislation calls for the units to remain ‘affordable’ for at least 15 years.
Officials in communities that have designated downtowns or villages note there is little room left in, or around, those areas in which to create new housing, let alone at an affordable price.
By CYRUS LEVESQUE
BRISTOL — While some towns have struggled to find people to serve on various boards and elected offices, 11 Bristol residents have expressed interest in seats on the planning commission, with only two incumbents leaving. In fact, a total of 39 town residents have indicated interest in positions on eight town boards and committees.
Selectmen will interview the candidates at a special meeting on Monday at 7 p.m. in Holley Hall. They may make decisions regarding the candidates then, but Selectwoman Sharon Compagna said appointments, an annual activity after March town meeting, will probably not be made until the regular selectboard meeting on March 31.
Compagna attributed the increased interest to the fact that an application form for volunteer positions was included in the town report.
Others say the ongoing controversy over plans for a gravel pit on land south of downtown Bristol has apparently spurred greater civic involvement, particularly on the planning commission.
Town administrator Bill Bryant said other municipal groups attracted “not that level of interest,” getting far fewer applicants per seat than the planning commission. The Revolving Loan Fund board, for example, only received four new applicants in addition to the seven members up for reappointment to one-year terms.
There are nine seats on the Bristol Planning Commission, each with a three-year term. Two of the members whose terms are up have expressed an interest in continuing, according to Bryant: Stan Livingston and Jim Peabody. Diane Heffernan, the third member whose term is up, isn’t interested in serving again, and Bunny Daubner is stepping down even though her term isn’t up until 2010, citing family health issues, Bryant said.
By JOHN FLOWERS
BRIDPORT — The Bridport Grange Hall will receive a $15,680 cut of $196,000 in federal money recently secured by Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., for senior centers in four counties.
Bridport Grange Hall became eligible for the money as host of the Bridport Seniors Group. The hall also serves as a distribution point for the local Meals on Wheels program (see related story this page).
The Champlain Valley Agency on Aging will receive the grant money. Leaders of the Bridport Grange and Bridport Seniors Group will together discuss how the money will be spent on improvements to the building.
Jim Morse, an officer with the Bridport Grange, said the building could use work on its dining room floor and its parking amenities. Visitors currently must park alongside the road or off-site.
“It sounds really good,” Morse said of the grant award.
Debbie Plouffe, another officer of the Grange, said the organization has been able to make other important repairs to the building thanks to special fund-raising events and fees garnered by the facility. Those repairs have included new windows, a new furnace, painting and insulation for the walls.
Seniors use the Grange Hall at least twice a week, primarily for meals and socializing, Plouffe said.
When announcing the grant last week, Sanders said the importance of senior centers, like Bridport’s, should not be underestimated.
“Senior centers in Vermont play a great role in making sure that older Vermonters receive the nutrition, socialization and health care they need,” said Sanders. “Unfortunately, many of these senior centers are located in older buildings that need infrastructure improvements.”