Be smart: stick to the Town Plan

The recent proposal to rezone part of our rural district for high-density residential development makes no sense.  Shelburne already is overly reliant upon residential property taxes.

It is common knowledge in planning circles that increased residential development leads to higher property taxes for everyone.  Along with the development comes increased demands upon our school system, further need for infrastructure improvements (roads, sidewalks, traffic mitigation, etc.), and a rise in requirements for municipal services which includes fire, police, and rescue.

They all cost more than the tax base and impact fees bring in. The hiring of one teacher can increase the school budget by more than $70,000.  One traffic light costs $80,000-$100,000 to install. A new fire truck can easily be half a million. Many studies have shown that residential development is a “money-loser” to a community.

Our town should be focusing on increased business, commercial, and industrial development.  This will provide good jobs, amenities, services, and a stable tax base.  To quote the Vermont League of Cities and Towns own document, “The Land Use – Property Tax Connection,”

“a town’s taxes are likely to be lower if its tax base has a high proportion of non-residential property to help offset the costs of residents.”

Gail Alpert’s assertion that this proposal is somehow “Smartgrowth” is equally troubling.  This is not a mixed-use project, there is no access to mass-transit, it is not near our schools, and there are no bike paths nearby.  It is unsafe for a pedestrian to cross the bridge on Irish Hill Road and too far a walk to our village. There are no jobs close by.  The project will bring over 1,000 daily car trip-ends to an already busy road with burdened intersections.

The only aspect of Smartgrowth involved in this project is the acquisition of some open land by the Laplatte River.  But this land is largely undevelopable anyway, and would likely stay untouched with almost any application (as well as on the tax rolls).  On a rating scale, I’d give this project a “D” when it comes to Smartgrowth.

Our taxes are already high.  Our schools are near capacity.  Our road infrastructure is at its limits. There are many reasons why this project runs contrary to the Town Plan—sound, valid, important reasons, which we would be wise to heed.

William Stuono, Shelburne

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