Bristol's downtown designation renewed

BRISTOL — Downtown Bristol has been a state Designated Downtown district since 2006. Every five years, the Bristol Downtown Community Partnership is required to apply for a renewal of the town’s designation.

On Monday, before the Bristol selectboard’s meeting, Bristol Town Administrator Bill Bryant and Carol Wells, director of the Bristol Downtown Community Partnership (BDCP) and a selectboard member, made the trek to Montpelier to defend Bristol’s downtown title for the first time.

“We know that Bristol is one of our strongest downtown programs; that Carol Wells and the BDCP is very well organized, has a strong committee and is working on a number of fronts such as economic development and Pocock Rocks, which was named best special event for the (state’s downtown program) Green Mountain Awards,” said Leanne Tingay, programs coordinator for the Vermont Downtown Program.

Needless to say, Bristol’s downtown designation was renewed.

Tingay did, however, mention that Bristol’s limited septic system may restrict development — an issue the selectboard has been looking into for months and has determined it would cost the town about $600,000 to remedy.

“We know one of the major challenges facing Bristol right now is the sewer system, but we’re very hopeful that the town can expand it,” Tingay said. “If you don’t have an adequate sewer, that can limit a town’s growth. I say can, not will. But I see nothing but a bright future for Bristol.”

The Bristol downtown designation brings with it many benefits, Wells explained.

 “It makes us eligible for grants. There are some (grants) in the state that you have to be a Designated Downtown to apply for. It helps us with transportation grants and funds for downtown improvement,” she said. “Also other organizations that are in or around a Designated Downtown (district) get extra points in (different) grant processes.

“There are also tax credits available for the rehabilitation of buildings,” she added. Additionally, “all of the Designated Downtown directors get together four times a year to share common concerns, challenges and ideas to find out what’s working and bring it back to our own towns.”

In selectboard news from the July 25, meeting:

•  The board decided to waive the Bristol Cemetery Association’s water fees “because they operate the cemetery on a shoestring (budget) and the town is now subsidizing the cemetery. Under state law, if the town cemetery association becomes defunct, the town takes responsibility for the cemetery,” Bryant said.

“So it’s easier to work with them and have them continue to operate. They’re a good group. They work hard and take care of that cemetery … and it’s more hassle for us to go and put a water meter in and bill them for two to three months for $150 worth of income. It’s not even worth it.”

•  The board reviewed the initial plans of the South Street Bridge project to see if the documents include a sidewalk or extra-wide shoulders.

“We’re looking at the preliminary plans, reviewing them and trying to keep (the Vermont Agency of Transportation) on schedule. We want to push for South Street before the Stoplight Bridge (on Route 116) and we don’t want to delay the Stoplight Bridge. We want to push all the projects forward,” said Bryant, restating one of the selectboard’s five yearly goals, which is to punctually push the town’s three pending bridge projects forward: the South Street Bridge, the Stoplight Bridge and the Hewitt Street Bridge.

Reporter Andrew Stein is at andrews@addisonindependent.com.

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