This article first appeared in the July , 2014 edition of the Vermont Standard.
By Michelle Fields, Standard Correspondent
Despite some concerns, but with much local support as well, a 72-page Vermont Community Development Block Grant application for up to $220,000 to build a new village snow dump will be sent in next Monday.
This comes after a capacity crowd attended a public hearing on the subject in the upstairs meeting room at Woodstock Town Hall on Monday, June 30.
The application seeks part of the $5 million set aside for improving community infrastructure as a result of damage in Washington, Windham, and Windsor counties related to Tropical Storm Irene. Woodstock qualifies as a result of the extensive damage to the riverbank near the snow dump that occurred during the storm, according to Two Rivers Ottauquechee Regional Planning Commission Representative Rita Seto.
If approved, the 2.01 acres of land off Maxham Meadow Way, which Woodstock Village has an option to purchase from the Woodstock Resort Corporation for this purpose, will be reviewed for suitability as a snow dump and the project will move forward. In 2012, Woodstock Village Voters approved $25,000 to design a new snow dump and in 2013 voters approved purchasing the land for that purpose, although they have not yet approved building a snow dump.
“Snow dumps contain a lot of different contaminants,” stated Marie Levesque Caduto, a watershed coordinator for the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation in support of the project. Noting that the state has invested a lot of money in trying to restore the riverbank near the current snow dump in the East End (since Tropical Storm Irene), she says that chloride is a particular concern. “It is a very big environmental issue as the snow melts, it goes into the banks…chloride is released all year.”
Previous grants through the Vermont Ecosystem Restoration Program created a riparian buffer and rain garden in the area last fall but a portion of this was destroyed by last winter’s large snow fall. “The Village was good to try to avoid the plantings, but it is not possible… some of the plantings did not survive,” said Mary MacVey of the East End Action Group. “If you were down at the snow dump at the Jungle as the snow melted this winter you would see the rivulets heading to the river,” she added.
However, despite local concerns about the environmental impact, there are no state regulations regarding snow dumps, so some questioned the need for the project.
“Is it really an Urgent Need (this is the category the grant falls under for urgent municipal infrastructure due to the impact of Irene) because the current snow dump is in compliance with all laws?” questioned Trustee Eric Nesbitt.
Resident Meriel Hall also questioned several material points on the application. “Throughout this application you state ‘nearly an acre’ (was lost due to Irene)…this is not a truthful statement,” she said noting that the actual amount is .26 acre. She also questioned the use of a photo in the application that was prior to some state restoration work to the bank. “You are giving the impression that the snow dump has not been improved since Irene…the after is not what it looks like now.”
“If there is an error, it will be rectified and clarified,” said MacVey to much clapping from the audience. She said corrections will be handled through an addendum and Village Manager Phil Swanson noted that all comments from the meeting as well as letters of support, concern, or questions received in the five days following the public hearing, will be included with the application.
Many in attendance at the meeting expressed support. “We really want to support this project to move the snow dump and enhance this area as a welcoming gateway to the community,” said Woodstock Chamber of Commerce Director Beth Finlayson.
“It’s really important for the redevelopment of the East End. Let’s approve the application,” said Village Resident and Economic Development Commission Chair Charlie Kimbell.
Several East End Property owners noted that the recent development of the East End Park has reignited their interest in improving their properties.
AJ Alsup noted that he and his brother have recently taken over the property in front of the snow dump from their father Bill. “We have not contributed to now to the aesthetics of the East End…we would like to change that.” He noted that they have a plan to redevelop their property. “It is a beautiful property with a ton of potential…from my perspective it makes a lot of sense to move the snow dump out of the village.”
Les Berge, who owns the former railroad turntable property, also noted improvements. “We will be taking down the long house and we are trying to do anything we can.” He added that previously developers have walked away from these properties due to the snow dump.
“We have the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone,” said Rep. Alison Clarkson noting that the East End Park provides the only public access to the river in the Village and moving the snow dump would help the environment and boost the redevelopment of the East End.
“We have done our best to move this along without putting the taxpayers on the line,” said Trustee Chair Candace Coburn. “I do not think it is our job to decide if it is going forward or not that is the Committee’s (the Community Development Block Grant Committee) job.”
The Community Development Block Grant Committee will likely review the application during their August 7 meeting with a decision following shortly thereafter.