Issues draw crowd to Selectboard meeting

By Heather McKim

The Sept. 11 meeting of the Selectboard drew a crowd as form-based code (FBC) regulation and social services funding garnered many comments from attendees, and the issue of the Fire Department purchasing a 1990 Boston Whaler Guardian Commercial Dive/Rescue Vessel was again on the agenda.

A presentation by a panel and discussion of FBC for possible application for the development along Route 7 was a key issue. Patricia Sears, executive director of Newport City Renaissance Corporation and Chris Dermody, St. Albans Planning Commission volunteer, spoke in person, and George Proakis, planning director at City of Somerville, Mass., joined the meeting via Skype.

“This is… about getting better rules,” Planning Commissioner Kate Lalley said of FBC, noting that planning for the Route 7 corridor has been “a challenge.”

Proakis highlighted the differences between conventional and form-based zoning. With traditional zoning, the emphasis is on regulation by use. Form generally follows regulation rather than function. He also illustrated how conventional codes can create challenges such as “open spaces” translating not into green space but, rather, parking lots.

The Selectboard approved the resolution in support of an article to be placed on the Nov. 6 general election ballot requesting authorization from voters to bond up to $70,000 to hire consultants to develop FBC and associated regulations to be applied to the Mixed Use District along Route 7 north of the LaPlatte River.

Next was discussion regarding how the town recognizes its responsibility to citizens in need. Chair Bill Smith reminded people that this was an opportunity to provide input and that the Selectboard has not yet made any decisions regarding funding of social services.

Selectboard member Al Gobeille distributed a letter addressed to his fellow board members that detailed a proposed course of action regarding social services funding that consisted of a four-pronged approach.

First, a budgeted amount of $50,000 would be established—an increase from the approximately $39,000 that had been spent last year.

Second, 50 percent of the money would be distributed to Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) of Chittenden County, of which Gobeille is a board member, and 10 percent to the United Way.

Third, 20 percent of the funds would go to the Shelburne Food Shelf and 5 percent to the Shelburne heating assistance program.

Fourth, a Shelburne Community Fund (SCF) would be created. Gobeille recommended that 15 percent of the budgeted money be used to create reserves needed for the fund.

The current social services committee would be dissolved and be replaced, instead, with a volunteer Social Services Coordinator (SSC). The SSC would lobby the Selectboard on behalf of the Social Services Plan and oversee citizens’ requests for support.

Gobeille recommended that the Selectboard set $35,000 as a goal for a reserve balance to support the SCF.

“I really like the bones of [the proposal],” Selectboard member Tim Pudvar said. He added he would like to see the $35,000 goal increased.

Residents at the meeting provided generally positive feedback. Concerns were raised, though, about certain points. One person objected to VNA receiving 50 percent of the proposed funds while so many other groups in the area need funding.

The Board then considered a resolution in support of a request by the Fire Department to place an article on the Nov. 6 general election ballot requesting that voters authorize bonds of $32,000 to purchase a boat. The funds would have repaid a private citizen who had offered to loan the money to the department with the condition of full repayment.

After hearing comments from the public, including an impassioned plea from Colleen Haag who said that if even one life was saved that the price tag would be worth it, Selectboard members chose to break away for a private session. After returning, they voted against the resolution but proceeded to approve a new motion by Selectboard member Bob Roesler asking the town to pay for the boat.

The Board also approved a proposal to shift priorities of the Highway Department to allocate up to $60,000 for the repair of “the Slide” on Harbor Road, reducing the Grand List by $19,300 by adjusting the assessed value of the Yankee Doodle Motel from $450,900 to $430,900 and a request by a developer to name a street, to be constructed off Webster Road, Lilly Creek Lane.

The evening ended with a presentation by Peter Frankenburg, finance director, of the preliminary financial results of the 2011-2012 General Fund Budget. Frankenburg said the fund balance went up by about $46,000, making for an $180,000 positive fund variance. This budget year, the town has a preliminary unassigned fund balance of approximately $500,000.

Frankenburg cautioned that the positive numbers were fed by several one-time things and of delayed needs. For instance, approximately $22,000 had been set aside for the library roof, but that project had been delayed. However, the need has not gone away.

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