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As Waitsfield considers which of two sites should be the location for its new town offices, many people are weighing in with their opinions on what the town should do.
Both sites are in Waitsfield Village, both are on Route 100 and both adjoin the town-owned Flemer Field. One site requires building from scratch. The other requires a complete renovation. The Flemer Farm Stand site is the new build site and the former Methodist church is the rebuild site.
Waitsfield and Valley residents have a lot to say about this and that’s a good thing. This is not simply a financial decision, so the argument that remodeling the church is more expensive, while valid, should not be the only consideration.
This is an important decision and one that deserves the full public consideration this one is receiving. How and where the town builds its offices matters a lot. It will be the legacy that this generation leaves the next generations and it should be as memorable a building as the Joslin Memorial Library that currently hosts the town offices.
Some feel that the town should opt for the church because doing so will preserve an important historical structure in Waitsfield Village. And that it would. But that alone is not necessarily the right reason for making that decision. Is not the upkeep of privately owned property the responsibility of the landowner?
Look north and south in The Valley to Moretown and Warren Villages and consider whether those towns would take on the responsibility of preserving historic structures. Moretown’s town library is in a historic building and has been renovated. In Warren, the town’s historical society is working to preserve a historic barn within the village. But that barn is currently on the premises of Warren’s municipal building and is already town owned. Ditto for Moretown’s library – town owned.
Private property owners are eligible for tax credits for historic preservation and towns are ineligible for those credits – although there are grants and favorable funding options available to municipalities that private property owners cannot get.
Whose job is it to take on the preservation of historic structures in a town? Everyone’s job or a property owner? It’s a valid question and a tough decision in the case of Waitsfield’s new town offices.
Don’t miss the chance to weigh in on the decision next Tuesday, December 11, at the Waitsfield Elementary School at 7 p.m.