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  • 2 Sep 2014

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Waitsfield receives anonymous gift of $100K for Farm Stand site purchase

Waitsfield was offered and accepted an anonymous donation of $100,000 to be used to purchase the Farm Stand parcel of land.

That parcel of land is earmarked for new town offices for Waitsfield and the town has an option to purchase it for $100,000. The town will vote again on a proposal to bond for up to $650,000 for new town offices on October 22.

The board reviewed the offer of the anonymous donation at its September 23 meeting and voted unanimously to accept it. The terms of the anonymous gift require that the money be used to buy the Farm Stand parcel and that the town must retain ownership of the parcel for at least 10 years.

The board voted unanimously to accept the gift after discussing the offer in executive session.

Waitsfield voters will reconsider a July 30 vote to build new town office at the Farm Stand site next month. The reconsideration vote is required because the town received a petition calling for reconsideration and must, by law, present the exact same article that voters considered in the first vote, which passed 309-209.

To overturn the affirmative vote would require no votes of at least two-thirds of the 309 July 30 yes votes when voters head to the polls next month.

In addition to the gift of $100,000 to purchase the land for the town offices, the town has also received a Community Development Block Grant of $750,000 to be used for that project. Both sums of money are expected to significantly reduce taxpayer dollars required for the project. Without the $100,000 donation, taxpayer costs were expected to be about $450,000 but now could be lower still. However, the town's October 22 bond vote wording (and request for $650,000) must be identical to the previous vote.

At this week's meeting the select board also discussed an email from Josh Hanford of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, answering questions from select board member Chris Pierson who, at the board's last meeting, questioned whether the grant was specifically awarded for the Farm Stand site or whether the town could amend its grant application and have the money awarded for a different site, or for the former Methodist Church. There is a strong contingent of people in Waitsfield who have favored rehabilitating the church versus building a new building.

What the board heard from Hanford, in response to Pierson's email, is that the CDBG notice that the town received was specifically for the Farm Stand site and that if the town wants to change sites it will have to reapply and in so doing, return its grant to the CDBG program.

Hanford also explained that the grant was given with specific conditions to be met by October 15 including a positive bond vote and completion of environmental studies. Hanford said by phone last week that in order to retain the grant the town will have to seek an extension of the October 15 date.

At this week's select board meeting, town administrator Valerie Capels discussed her request for extension with the select board. Her letter requesting the extension explains the first yes vote in July and the subsequent petition for reconsideration that led to the October 22 vote. She also explained that the environmental review is under way but noted that obtaining all of the necessary permits would take longer than October 15.

"At its meeting on September 12, the Waitsfield Select Board appointed a final design committee to work with the project architect. Part of their charge is to solicit public input, which may involve a variety of methods at different iterations during the design process. Once a final plan is in place, the zoning permit process can take one or more months to complete," she wrote.

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