Planning, Selectboard explore Village Center Designation Program

By Alex Bunten | The Charlotte News

Changes and locals were afoot in the east and west villages of Charlotte on August 20. The Planning Commission, Selectboard and a group of interested citizens were joined by Richard Amore, planning coordinator with the State of Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development, to tour and discuss the historic settlements of Charlotte in advance of a Village Center Designation Program, a move spearheaded by Charlotte Community Development.

Joining this program would provide access to tax credit and priority site consideration for state grants in order to revitalize the village areas. Other towns that have utilized this program include Shelburne, Hinesburg, Richmond, Huntington and New Haven.

The tour started in East Charlotte and was led by Jeannine McCrumb, the town planning and zoning administrator, and Carrie Spear, owner of Spear’s Corner Store and a Selectboard member. The group of about 15 community members discussed the “anchors” in the community that would act as boundaries for the to-be-defined village center. The borders would be determined by the town, but Amore would offer consult on this matter.

One of the first questions asked by the tour group was about the benefit this program might have to residential units in the designated village area. According to Amore, this program would only benefit commercial properties and it would have no benefit to most residential units.

However, income-producing properties, such as multi-family homes that are rented, could be eligible for funding through the program. This could incentivize residential units included in a commercially zoned area to use the premises for business or rent it out.

Amore used Hardwick as a successful example of village center revival. The local government there was able to gain access to $820,000 in tax credits through the program, which was then used to leverage over $5 million in outside investment.

Tax credits can be used for the redevelopment of blighted or marginal properties to incentivize housing projects or make rebuilding possible after a disaster. Of the 122 designated villages around the state, one of the most popular uses has been a 50-percent tax credit to get a building up to code—applicable retroactively for one year.

According to Amore, the Town of Charlotte would not be able to apply for village center designation right now, as Charlotte lacks the language included in the Town Plan relating specifically to village center designation.

The most recent Town Plan, readopted in 2013, states “Charlotte supports a land use plan which fosters a pattern of small, concentrated settlements in the village and hamlet areas … [and] will attempt to direct the majority of future growth into the village areas and existing and new hamlets and clustered developments.”

Amore suggested that adding something as simple as “considering or exploring town village designation” would be sufficient to be eligible to apply.

During the Planning Commission meeting that followed, Frank Tenney expressed concern about the public’s ability to weigh in on whether or not the town adopts this program.

The changes to the Town Plan regarding the village designation, in addition to an amendment to the energy section, will be discussed at a Planning Commission meeting on September 3. Public comment is invited. A warned Planning Commission hearing will take place on October 8, where the Charlotters can also have their say.

If the amendments to the Town Plan are approved by the Planning Commission, and later the Selectboard, the proposed changes would be voted on at Town Meeting in March 2016.

For more information on the Village Designation Program, visit goo.gl/uHCYco.

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