Village Economic Development report presented to Planning Commission

By Carol Casey

The theme of the Planning Commission meeting on April 24 was economic development.

The Commission heard from Dawn Francis, Colchester Town Manager. Commissioner Ann Hogan introduced Francis by noting what she had learned through research. Francis characterized Shelburne as having a robust commercial, retail, and professional base to build upon, and suggested the town engage in a SWOT analysis to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Opportunities include developing year-round tourism and creating more value added agricultural enterprises, such as a vegetable processing center. Planning member Brian Precourt cited the need for upscale lodging, while Chair Kate Lalley noted the unrealized potential of lakeshore and pastoral land.

Francis believes the aim should be to identify ways for getting people off their boats and into town. Ann Hogan recommended developing more winter tourism opportunities in conjunction with Shelburne Farms and the Shelburne Museum, and Jaime Heins saw opportunities in the south end of Shelburne, building upon the success of the vineyard and brewery.

Francis suggested Shelburne consider partnering with Charlotte, recommending the towns draw upon the free expertise available from the Lake Champlain Chamber of Commerce, Greater Burlington Industrial Corporation, state office of economic development, and other entities. Formulating a marketing strategy is key, she added.

Patrick Olstad of LandWorks presented highlights of the Village Economic Development and Planning Study Report. The report recommends building or retrofitting some 100 residential units in the next two years in two categories: condos or cottages for “empty nesters” looking to downsize and rental units for young professionals. He suggested 40 ownership and 30 rental units could be built east of the mobile home park. Consultants foresee a need for approximately 15,000 square feet of office space in the next 10 years.

The report recommends the Shelburne Shopping Park be re-configured to provide efficient parking and a link to the village. Olstad showed a plan for adding three new buildings, creating some 16,000 square feet of new retail space, and making more green space to soften the “sea of asphalt.” He said some regulatory changes within the village might be needed to allow for greater density, lower setback requirements, and more allowable uses.

In response to Selectboard member Toni Supple, Olstad said a connector road from the shopping park to Harrington Village was desirable from a marketing perspective – as is making Falls Road one way – but understood that public opinion was against such measures. Dorothea Penar from the Historic Preservation and Design Review Commission, asked that the Commission have an opportunity to analyze and provide feedback on the report, and expressed concerns about the scale of future development and ensuring historic buildings are not overshadowed.

The next meeting of the Planning Commission will be held Thursday, May 8 at 7pm in the Municipal Center. An update on the Route 7 form-based code project will be on the agenda.