New Middlebury park to bear Lazarus name

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury selectboard on Tuesday agreed to name a soon-to-be created downtown park in honor of the late Stan Lazarus, who served Middlebury in the Legislature and became known for his many charitable acts as owner of the former Lazarus Department Store. The park will be located off Printer’s Alley, on a site that once hosted Lazarus’ store. A group of Middlebury residents circulated a petition and lobbied the selectboard to name the park in honor of the Lazarus patriarch.

The board heard feedback from area residents and town officials as they weighed the park naming request.

Former Middlebury Planning Commission Chairwoman Nancy Malcolm said that while she revered Stan Lazarus, the urged the selectboard to be careful about accepting individual requests to name public places.

“I know he was a very strong, giving figure in this community,” Malcolm said. “That said, I feel that it is dangerous to set a precedent, to just start naming public spaces for people that have been in this community — even though they are extremely dedicated and good citizens… I would request that the selectboard instead give this to the policy committee to come up with an actual policy for naming public spaces in Middlebury, instead of just going on emotion… ”

Other community members agreed the selectboard wait before naming the new park, noting the current design process for the space hasn’t contemplated a specific namesake. A Lazarus park, some suggested, could benefit from a plaque and/or signs providing information of the Lazarus family or of the Lazarus store, while also explaining the history of retail in the downtown.

Resident Mike Olinick was one of the petitioners for Lazarus park. He said supporters could have easily doubled or tripled the roughly 100 signatures they gathered on behalf of the naming proposal.

Olinick argued the Lazarus naming request deserved even greater consideration because the park will be located at the site of the namesake’s store.

“The Lazarus family over a period of 75 years or more did a lot for this town, both publicly and privately,” Olinick said. “It seemed fitting to name this park in their honor.”

He and others noted there are already many public spaces in Middlebury bearing names of local historical figures.

Former Middlebury Town Planner Fred Dunnington gave the examples of Battell Woods, Means Woods, Wright Park, Storrs Park and Jessica Swift Park.

A counter was made to hold off on officially naming the park until the town had a better sense of what the park might look like or the function it might serve. Selectboard chairman Brian Carpenter noted that there was no reason to move immediately on naming the park, suggesting they could agree on their intent of naming the park in Lazarus’ honor, but waiting for up to a year until they had a clearer idea of the park’s design. Ultimately, however, the board agreed to commit to the name of “Lazarus park” after taking around 25 minutes of testimony.

Selectman Victor Nuovo was one of the chief proponents of Lazarus Park.

“There are exceptional people who have made great contributions,” Nuovo said, adding he believes Lazarus fits that category.

Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.


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