By Gareth Henderson
The Woodstock Village Trustees and the Town Selectboard have agreed to explore alternative sites for the village snow dump, which currently exists at the Jungle property on the village’s East End.
This is the result of recent efforts from Sustainable Woodstock and the Woodstock Economic Development Commission (EDC) to plan a Riverfront Park at the Jungle. The Jungle consists of parcels owned by the village, William Alsup, JBW Partners and the Woodstock Resort Corp.
The sticking point in recent discussions has been the snow dump kept on the village parcel. Removing it would make the new park more feasible as a year-round attraction, but the trustees have been wary of the potential cost of relocating the snow dump and funding a new site. This is part of the latest effort to redevelop the East End, which has been an eyesore for the village for the past three decades.
Click here to see a video on the proposed East End development. EAST END VIDEO
On Tuesday, the EDC and Sustainable Woodstock’s East End Action Group asked the trustees and the selectboard to formally direct Municipal Manager Phil Swanson to help find other potential sites for the snow dump. Both groups said the active support of the local government would make it much easier to have detailed discussions with the owners of possible sites. Sustainable Woodstock has spoken with the Woodstock Resort Corp., which has been supportive of the Riverfront Park plan, but no agreement has been reached with any landowner at this early stage.
In a report to the trustees, the EDC states that a Riverfront Park at the Jungle would create public access to the Ottauquechee River; enhance the aesthetics of the gateway to the village; and provide a catalyst for the redevelopment of the abutting properties. Many groups over the years have tried to redevelop the East End, but have fallen short – mainly due to funding. Sustainable Woodstock estimates that a “full redevelopment plan could invest up to $17 million” at the Jungle and create “potential annual property tax revenues of $279,000 to $348,000,” according to the EDC report.
EDC Chair Charlie Kimbell, who is also a trustee, explained to the board that without the blessing of the trustees, the EDC’s efforts on the East End wouldn’t carry enough weight to move forward.
But Trustee Chair Candace Coburn said funding is the main issue. She said the board would be hard-pressed to ask taxpayers to fund the relocation of the snow dump. Coburn added that it would probably be necessary to buy another property for the snow, to make the effort work.
Trustee Eric Nesbitt pointed out that it wasn’t just a one-time expense for the village.
“It’s going to be year after year after snowy year,” he said.
Laird Bradley, a member of the East End Action Group, said Sustainable Woodstock knows people who would donate their own money to a serious plan to create the Riverfront Park. He said this would help take the expense off the taxpayers’ backs.
Nesbitt added that the EDC’s report neglected to mention the potential cost of cleaning up previous environmental pollution at the Jungle. Bradley mentioned that there are brown field funds available from the state, to clean up portions of sites that might be polluted.
As for the town, Selectboard Chair Jack Anderson said he favored looking for alternative sites for the snow dump. He said the Riverfront Park would be a resource town residents could use as well.
“I think we should move on it,” Anderson said.
Selectboard member Bruce Gould said he didn’t see a risk in exploring possible options.
In the end, the trustees voted 4-0 to form a subcommittee with Swanson, Coburn and Anderson that would research potential alternative sites for the village snow dump.
The selectboard approved a similar motion in a 4-1 decision, with John Doten dissenting.
Representatives from the EDC and Sustainable Woodstock have said they would assist the new subcommittee. Trustees said village voters would have the final say in whether the snow dump is relocated.
By Gareth Henderson