The_Valley_Reporter - News Wed, 30 Jul 2014 21:30:00 -0400 en-gb Riverside Park: floodplain or Frisbee field?

By Rachel Goff

Can a piece of land be both a riparian buffer and a recreation area? Warren Select Board continued this debate in its discussion on the future of Riverside Park on Tuesday, July 22.

Warren accepted ownership of Riverside Park from a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) buyout following the flood of 1998. With a sandy bank and a grassy lawn, the Route 100 property became a popular place for swimming, picnicking and Frisbee tossing before its landscape changed drastically due to flooding from Tropical Storm Irene in August of 2011.

After Irene, "We rebuilt [Riverside Park] a fair amount because a lot of it had washed away," select board member Andy Cunningham said on Tuesday, but just two years later the property flooded again from intense rain on July 3, 2013, and the debris was never fully cleaned up.

Today, the bank at Riverside Park is partially obscured by brush and the lawn is strewn with rocks and tree trunks. At its last meeting on July 8, the select board debated how to best maintain the property while knowing that it will incur damage from future floods.

The debate is an important one, because "there are very few places in Warren where you can access the river without going across someone's land," select board member Matt Groom said on Tuesday, speaking to the niche Riverside Park occupies in the community.

Before Irene, Riverside Park "seemed like this quintessential Vermont spot that a lot of families fell in love with," select board member Colleen Mays said. Now, "it looks shabby," she said, "and I don't think it represents our town."

While historically Warren has prioritized Riverside Park as a recreation area, the town has also taken into consideration the physical value of the property as a place where the river can expend its energy when water levels are high, thus limiting damage to roads, bridges, homes and businesses.

Corrie Miller, executive director of Friends of the Mad River, and members of Warren Conservation Commission attended Tuesday's meeting to present some of the science behind the argument against maintaining Riverside Park so as not to compromise its role as a floodplain.

In talking about what to do with the property, "We have to be good neighbors," conservation commission member Robin Bleier said, explaining that the town needs to consider "the people down the river."

According to Miller, Riverside Park lies in a spot where the Mad River straightens out and if water were not allowed to go through the park after storms, the next spot the river would attempt to straighten out would be at Sugarbush Resort's snowmaking pond just north off Route 100.

As water is allowed to go through Riverside Park, "it's going to erode," Miller said, "and the channel is going to change." The property is also located in a spot that is going to collect a lot of sediment, including the softball-sized rocks now scattered across Riverside Park's field, which limit the town's ability to mow it.

Nevertheless, "I think there is a compromise," Miller said, and "it might be signage." While calling the property a park implies it will be in pristine condition, Miller suggested the town put up signs saying something like "riparian growth in progress." That way, the property can still be enjoyed by the community but residents and visitors will understand that something scientific is also at work.

This is "an opportunity for education," Bleier said in agreement, suggesting that instead of a park, Riverside "could be the floodplain management zone with recreational opportunities."

"That's not a bad idea," Cunningham said.

If the board decides to take that route, it clarified that the town's upkeep of the Route 100 property would likely include only very light maintenance such as removing the rocks strewn across the field in order to mow it on a semi-regular basis, as well as smoothing out some of the divots.

"I'm not looking for a manicured lawn," Groom said. "But I'm also not looking for soccer-ball-size boulders instead of soccer balls."

Already, "There are a lot of community members who are starting to ask, 'what can I do?'" Mays said, explaining that there is the potential to harness that energy into some sort of volunteer stewardship group.

Moving forward, the board invites any interested parties to meet at the Route 100 property to do a walk-through of the property at a special meeting scheduled for Tuesday, July 29, at 6 p.m. at Riverside Park. Barbeque grills and dogs are welcome at Riverside Park.


News Thu, 24 Jul 2014 15:05:30 -0400
Special town meeting will determine whether Duxbury borrows money

By Rachel Goff

Town Meeting is a time-honored tradition that takes place every March throughout Vermont, but this year Duxbury decided to hold not one, not two, but three of them.

Duxbury will hold a special Town Meeting on Monday, July 28, asking residents to weigh in on the following article: "Shall the town of Duxbury rescind the action taken at the May 10, 2014, special meeting whereby the voters authorized the town of Duxbury to appropriate the sum of $70,000 to be applied to the outstanding debt of the town." The meeting takes place at 7 p.m. at Crossett Brook Middle School.

The article resulted from a petition taxpayers circulated after the first special Town Meeting in May, at which Duxbury Select Board fielded questions from residents inquiring as to whether or not the town ended the year with $338,000 in debt. In May voters approved borrowing of $70,000 a year for five years to pay off the debt.

According to the select board, the town's $338,000 debt consists of a $228,000 line of credit and a $110,000 budget deficit. According to former town auditor Bill Yacavoni, however, the $228,000 line of credit is included in the 2013 budget deficit and Duxbury has only $110,000 in debt—or even less because the town received a refund of $40,000 from Washington West Supervisory Union.

After sustaining large amounts of damage due to flooding from the storm, Duxbury took out a $1.5 million line of credit with Merchants Bank to pay for repairs to town roads and bridges until it was reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA).

In the end, Duxbury received $1.7 million from FEMA—even more than it had expected—but as the reimbursement checks came in they were used to pay for the town's operating expenses rather than repaying the line of credit, which currently stands at $228,000.

In addition to failing to use FEMA funds for repaying the line of credit, the board also overspent its budget by $110,000 in 2013, which includes a $40,000 deficit carried over from 2012.

The line of credit became due on June 30 and due to the petition asking voters to rescind the permission to borrow money, Duxbury paid off Merchants Bank with funds from Community National Bank in the amount of $230,371.04, to be paid back with an interest rate of 1.675 over five years. The select board accepted the refinancing plan at its meeting on June 24. The petition seeking to rescind the permission to borrow funds was submitted on June 6. Will Senning at the Vermont secretary of state's office elections divisions said that towns are advised to wait for the outcome of rescission votes before proceeding to spend or indebt the taxpayers.

"It is certainly not best practice to spend or borrow prior to the outcome of a rescission vote," Senning said.

At its meeting on July 14, the select board also moved to pay off its 2013 budget deficit with funds from Community National Bank in the amount of $110,344, to be paid back with an interest rate of 1.675 over five years. The amount of that deficit is also in question and former auditor Yacavoni said that the deficit is as low as $16,000 and that there is no reason to indebt taxpayers for five years over a sum so small.


News Thu, 24 Jul 2014 14:48:03 -0400
Towns set tax rates

Throughout The Valley towns are setting tax rates and some voters have already received their property tax bills.

Fayston has set its property tax rate and bills have gone out. The local tax rate this year is $0.23 and the nonresident rate is the same. Last year that rate was $0.195. The education tax rate is $1.53 with the nonresident rate lower, at $1.43. Last year those rates were $1.48 and $1.41, respectively. Total tax rates with a $0.0004 local agreement tax are $1.76 for residents and $1.66 for nonresidents.

In Waitsfield, taxpayers received bills for 18 months because the town is transitioning from a calendar year for budgeting to a July 1 to June 30 fiscal year. Although property tax bills may seem higher, the tax rate is actually lower.

The municipal tax rate in 2013 was $0.33 and in 2012 was $0.31. Based on the 2014 Grand List, the first six months (January to June) of expenses reflect a rate of $0.1404 and the 12 months of expenses from July 1, 2014, to June 30, 2015, reflect a tax rate of $0.27. With the local agreement rate of $0.0030 added, it works out to $0.42.

Waitsfield's education tax rate is $1.48 for residents and $1.41 for nonresidents. Last year those rates were $1.38 and $1.36, respectively. Total rate for Waitsfield residents is $1.90. For nonresidents, total tax rate is $1.83.

Waitsfield voters will pay their property taxes in quarterly installments this year.

In Warren the municipal rate has been set at $0.39, lower than last year's $0.44. Warren education tax rate for residents is $1.45. For nonresidents, the rate is $1.48. Last year those rates were $1.34 and $1.43, respectively. Total tax rates for Warren taxpayers are $1.84 for residents and $1.87 for nonresidents.


News Thu, 24 Jul 2014 14:42:42 -0400
Moretown makes moves to digitize tax maps

By Rachel Goff

When Moretown town offices flooded during Tropical Storm Irene in August of 2011, the town lost a lot of important documents. That never would have happened if they had been stored as files on a computer, rather than as pieces of paper in boxes.

On Monday, July 21, local listers came before the Moretown Select Board with a plan to digitize the town's tax maps.

"It's been 12 years since Moretown had accurate, updated tax maps," town lister Deborah Feldman said. The current tax maps were drawn up in 1984. While the paper documents have been updated eight times since, the last update was completed in 2002 and is now over a decade old.

In 2008, Moretown attempted to digitize the tax maps and "some work was done but the maps were never officially approved by the select board," Feldman said, and so the town needs to start over.

According to town lister Heather Raylinsky, having accurate, updated tax maps makes it easier for residents to apply for zoning permits and easier for the town to keep track of subdivisions. Accurate, updated tax maps also allow realtor estate agents and lawyers access to important information about the town.

By switching to a digital system, Moretown will be able to update its tax maps more regularly, without having to redo an entire document, and the files will be stored off-site to ensure they are not destroyed in the event of another natural disaster.

Unfortunately, switching to a digital system "is not going to be inexpensive," town lister Mike Woods said. After receiving two bids for the undertaking, the listers recommended the town contract with a New Hampshire-based company for the project, which will likely cost between $40,000 and $44,000. There are some municipal planning grants available that could be applied to the project, Woods explained, to help to reduce the town's out-of-pocket expense.

"I think there's no question we have to go forward," select board member Rae Weston said.

"I think it's important," select board member Michelle Beard echoed. "I mean, we need tax maps."

The cost of digitizing Moretown's tax maps will need to be voted on by taxpayers, but on Monday the board discussed the possibility of starting the process with the money available to them now—about $5,000—as long as the contract included a clause that allows the town to back out if residents do not approve the expenditure. If the town did need to back out of its contract, any work completed by the company would be transferrable to future tax map updates.

Only three members of the board were there last Monday to discuss the issue and so the board decided to wait until it had a full table to vote on the tax maps at its next meeting in August.


News Thu, 24 Jul 2014 14:39:16 -0400
Houston asks Waitsfield for free water

By Lisa Loomis

Virginia Houston believes the town of Waitsfield owes her free water from the town's municipal water system and came before the Waitsfield Water Commission to make that request.

She told the commission that she felt it was right that she receive the water for free because she said the town had spent over 30 years trying to prevent her from going into the business of selling water in bulk and creating a bottling plant.

At a late May meeting of the water commission, Houston told the board she had offered the free water 30 years ago if she could get into the water business but said she was turned down. Town records reveal a slightly different version.

Houston came to the Waitsfield Planning Commission with a plan for commercial extraction of water from two wells on her property on Reed Road in 1991 and the planning commission gave preliminary approval. The planning commission found that the proposed use could be considered small-scale processing of a raw agricultural or forestry product and could be considered a conditional use – one which the town may regulate.

Subsequent to that Waitsfield's then town attorney wrote to the town's zoning board of adjustment (now the development review board) suggesting that commercial extraction of water should be considered an agricultural use – which is an unregulated use by right. The zoning board of adjustment considered her application both ways and ultimately denied it because the town's zoning did not speak to commercial water extraction.

Houston appealed that to Superior Court and later to Vermont Supreme Court, which in 1994 ruled that commercial water extraction was not a use by right. The town began trying to pass a zoning amendment that would allow commercial water extraction as a conditional use while Houston and supporters petitioned the town for a vote on commercial water extraction as a use by right. After several votes and several years, the zoning ordinance was amended to allow commercial water extraction as a conditional use.

Houston applied for and received a conditional use permit to truck water in bulk off the site via six round-trip truck trips per day. She never acted on those permits.

When she spoke to the water commission she said she feels her land and water were stolen from her illegally, referring to the town drilling a well that accesses the same aquifer she tapped into. The town uses that water for its municipal water project. Even though Houston settled all seven of her lawsuits with Waitsfield in January 2013 over the water project, she suggested to the water commission that the town owed her the free water to make up for the fact that "my land and water were stolen from me illegally."

"I'd like to put all of this behind us and move forward. I'd like to have access to half your supply of water. I'm willing to take more because I guess you don't have enough users and need to be able to keep your pipes clean without chlorinating. So I could bring a business to town and employ people, which is what I offered 30 years ago.

Water commissioners asked her where she'd set up a business and she said she'd start by selling the water in bulk, so she'd set up wherever there's a pipe. She said she hadn't researched locations because she didn't know if the town would provide her with the water.

Waitsfield's state permits for its wells are for 186 gallons a minute and Houston said she would like to be able to sell half of that.

"All day? How many loads?" asked water commissioner Peter Reynells.

"Yes, we'd be doing it all day, every day. We'd be keeping the pipes running so that you don't need chlorine,' Houston said.

Commissioner Jack Himmelsbach asked Houston if she'd be selling any of the water from her wells or if she'd only use the town well.

"If in 20 years you need more water, you can have some of mine," Houston said.

"Why use ours versus yours?" Himmelsbach asked.

"It's quicker and easier. I'd have to go back and get all my permits. I think it would suit your purpose because you really didn't need that amount of water and you're having a problem because of low usage. This is a way for me to get more quickly into business and for you to keep your pipes clean," she said.

"I get your approach. You want to prove your business and that's why you want to start this way. We could certainly use another user, however, with the way you're looking for you're probably going to look for guaranties of quantities. I see it as an issue for town water source without you having permitting in place to use your water. My report says you have 2,000 gallons per minute of water up there of your own," commissioner and select board member Chris Pierson said.

"Have you looked at the economics of this? Would you be supporting half the debt service and maintenance of the system or would you want a discount?" asked commissioner Bill Parker.

"No I just want access to the water," Houston said.

"So you'd pay the user rate for the water?" Parker asked.

"No I wouldn't be paying because I feel the water was taken from me illegally and you were defrauded by certain people because you never needed a source for municipal water to begin with," she said.

"The town was defrauded and it was an illegal taking when you drilled your well," she said.

"Didn't the courts decide all that?" Himmelsbach asked.

"I lost in court. Part of the problem was that people lied," she said.

"You started your intro by saying you wanted to put the past behind us, but now you're going right there. I'm confused," Pierson said.

"By the town putting it right now and allowing me to access my water, I think I am putting the past behind us," Houston responded.

"You have four wells and permits for up to 600 gallons per minute, but you opted not to do anything with that," Parker said.

"The town would not give me a permit to do anything," Houston said.

"They ended up giving me a permit for six or eight truck trips a day with restrictions. It was clear to me that the town did not want this business. I was told by the same person who told me to make him my partner and all my permitting issues would go away that he did not want my business in town because I might pay people more than he was paying people," she continued.

"So you're feeling that you were abused by the town, cheated by the town and you think the town should give you half the water as repayment for abuse?" asked Parker.

"I don't think I should be paying for water that I spent 30 years developing," she responded.

Parker pointed out that the water commission has to charge all users the same rates and that free water for her would mean that her water was being paid for by the other users, something water commission chair Scott Kingsbury would make the water users "really angry."

Parker also noted that state and federal funds went into the town's water project and there may be restrictions on that funding that will impact this decision.

Current water system users are paying 2 cents per gallon and Houston eventually revealed that she could or would pay .01 cents per gallon for the water, or about 48 cents for an 8,000-gallon truck.

Further action was tabled.


News Thu, 24 Jul 2014 14:32:04 -0400
Cell 4 application still technically incomplete

By Rachel Goff

At the Moretown Select Board meeting on Monday, July 21, talk turned to Moretown Landfill, whose application to construct a fourth trash cell on site is still under review by the state.

Currently, the Route 2 facility's Cell 4 application is considered technically incomplete. According to Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) Solid Waste Management Program director Ben Gauthier, Moretown Landfill's application for Cell 4—which would double the size of the facility and extend its life by 12 to 16 years—still lacks a complete groundwater corrective action plan (CAP). The CAP the landfill most recently submitted had "data gaps that they could only fill through additional sampling," he said, and "that data is necessary to finalizing the treatment design."

Once the data gaps are filled and the CAP is complete, however, Moretown Landfill's application "may require multiple rounds of review and response" between the ANR and the facility, Gauthier explained. "It is impossible to estimate a timeframe" for when the permit will be approved or denied, he said.

"Typically the clock doesn't start ticking until an application is complete," select board member Michelle Beard said on Monday, explaining that the agency doesn't set a date it needs to make a decision by until they have all of the requisite paperwork in front of them. Because the application is still technically incomplete, "they can drag on this part of it," Beard said.
In the winter of 2012-13, the Moretown Development Review Board (DRB) held a series of public hearings concerning Moretown Landfill's first Cell 4 application, which was submitted by its previous owners, Interstate Waste Services. When Advanced Disposal took over ownership of the facility last September, it continued the hearings until eventually withdrawing the expansion application to focus on bringing the existing facility into compliance following a string of environmental violations issued by the ANR.

Last September, the Environmental Division of Vermont Superior Court approved and entered a consent order that affirmed the Agency of Natural Resources' (ANR) March 2013 denial of Moretown Landfill's application for certification renewal of Cells 2 and 3, which the landfill had appealed.

The consent order prohibited Moretown Landfill from accepting waste and required the Route 2 facility to cap its cells, to investigate and remediate groundwater contamination and to draft and implement an agency-approved odor control plan. In other words, the consent order "requires prompt and orderly closure along with extensive remedial efforts ... to ensure that the landfill will not negatively affect nearby residents or the environment," ANR Department of Environmental Conservation commissioner David K. Mears said, and any plans to expand and re-open the landfill must also meet those same standards.


News Thu, 24 Jul 2014 14:24:52 -0400
Fed bears are dead bears

By Rachel Goff

So far this summer, over two dozen Valley residents have posted bear sightings to public forums and last Friday, the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department (VT F&W) put out a press release in response to heightened concern over the animals' actions throughout the region.

"Our phone has been ringing constantly the last couple of weeks with calls from people asking what to do about a bear that has been visiting their yard," Col. David LeCours, the department's director of law enforcement, said. And Vermont Fish & Wildlife has some answers.

According to LeCours, the first thing to do after spotting a bear in a developed area is to remove whatever could be attracting it (i.e., food). Some of the most common bear attractors include bird feeders and pet food, as well as barbeque grills and trash bins.

Removing food is important because bears that have found it near someone's house almost always return for more. In doing so, the animals "develop habits that can lead to [their] demise," Vermont Fish & Wildlife explains. "Relocating a nuisance bear is very difficult—they frequently have to be put down."

Nevertheless, Vermont law states that residents must take reasonable measures to protect their property from bears before the department can use lethal force against the animal. Those measures include securing chicken coops and beehives with electric fencing, keeping trash indoors or in bear-proof containers and—to the surprise of some—not putting out bird feeders between April 1 and November 30, as the feathery animals have plenty to eat during warmer months without human help.

While the statute aims to prevent the unintentional feeding of bears, according to a state law passed in 2013, it is now illegal to intentionally feed bears and last Tuesday, July 15, a Montgomery man was charged by Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department for deliberately attracting the animals to his property with treats.

A game warden responded to the residence of Jeffrey Messier following a report of a bear being killed in self-defense at a neighboring home. Upon recovering the bear, the warden found its stomach was full of sunflower seeds, which he saw that Messier had been feeding to several bears at his home.

"Bears are normally shy and not aggressive toward humans," biologist Forrest Hammond said in another Vermont Fish & Wildlife press release issued after the incident. "However, a bear that has been fed by humans soon loses its shyness and can become dangerous, especially to the landowner feeding the bear and to [his or her] neighbors."

With the new law making it illegal to feed bears, "We're in a period of transition," Hammond said, but "people are really starting to get the message." If convicted for illegally feeding bears, Messier faces a fine of up to $1,000 and a one-year revocation of his hunting, fishing and trapping licenses.


News Thu, 17 Jul 2014 17:50:54 -0400
Bridge Street project may be split into two phases

By Lisa Loomis

After meeting with Bridge Street merchants and the project engineer, the Waitsfield Select Board will try to split the Bridge Street project into two phases, one to be done this summer/fall and the other to be done next spring.

Whether that happens or not depends on whether splitting the project into two phases will significantly increase the costs. Voters have authorized the town to borrow up to $75,000 towards the project which includes $475,730 in repairs to the covered bridge and abutments plus $185,137 for work on Bridge Street itself, including repaving it and repairing the stormwater system and retaining wall on Bridge Street.

The project is expected to take a month to six weeks and merchants objected to the timing, which would have had Bridge Street closed in October during foliage season. At the July 14 meeting of the select board, board members heard a proposal to split the project into phases so that the work on the bridge, abutments and retaining wall would take place this fall and the work on Bridge Street would take place next spring.

Work on the bridge will require that the bridge is closed, but Bridge Street can remain open. The work on Bridge Street will require closing Bridge Street and the bridge. Pedestrian access via the bridge will continue throughout the projects.

Town administrator Valerie Capels told the board that project engineer Evan Detrick felt splitting the project was doable and said it was hard to predict how it would affect the bidding process. The project went out to bid at the end of June and bids are due July 31. The town is hosting a pre-bid meeting for contractors and others next Tuesday, July 22, at Waitsfield United Church of Christ. At that meeting contractors will be asked to bid the project as one project and as a two-phased project.

Board members discussed the implications of splitting the project, including closing the bridge twice and its impact on parents taking their kids to school.

"I almost think it would be a good idea to split it. I have concerns about getting Bridge Street blacktopped by fall. If we get bad weather, blacktop people are going to shut their plants down," said select board chair Paul Hartshorn.

Regarding starting the street work in April and concluding it by Memorial Day, which was discussed, board member Scott Kingsbury said, "That's the most ridiculous thing. May is not a reasonable answer. I have concerns about being done in May. The work may not even start until May."

Capels told the board that, according to the engineer, splitting the project could increase the cost, lower the cost or have no impact on the cost. The bridge work will take at least two weeks and will involve noise, heavy equipment and dust. Bridge Street work is estimated to take four weeks and board members discussed whether it made sense to do the projects concurrently to get them completed with less disruption.

"I think it comes down to the cost and what is justifiable. Voters authorized us to spend a specific amount," said select board member Chris Pierson.

"And there will be tax consequences. And we've already asked voters to vote on this twice," he added.

At Town Meeting in 2013 voters authorized the town to spend $50,000 toward the project including burying the power lines when the Bridge Street work was undertaken. That project did not happen in 2013 and at Town Meeting in 2014, after extensive discussion and several votes, voters rejected calls for spending $400,000 to bury the power lines and did approve spending up to $75,000 toward the project.

Ultimately the board decided to ask for bids from contractors both ways and will pursue the two- phase plan if the costs are not significantly different.


News Thu, 17 Jul 2014 16:41:28 -0400
Moretown town offices coming along slowly

Currently, the town has submitted all but one item required for the project's environmental assessment, which is pending approval by the state. Once approved, Moretown can put the construction of the new local government building out to bid.

The environmental assessment, which was completed by Ross Environmental Associates, was a requirement of the $700,000 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Moretown received last summer to build the new town offices, which will be located in the village on the current site of the Moretown Elementary School playground.

This week, Moretown Town Office Committee chair Clark Amadon said the environmental assessment "seems to have taken an extraordinarily long time," in part because the town was waiting on students from the University of Vermont to conduct an archaeological review of the site to ensure there were no pre-Columbian artifacts.

In the end, "they didn't find anything," Amadon said of the students, and now he's working on one last item required by the environmental assessment in which the town must show that it considered other locations before deciding on one that falls within the 500-year floodplain, "albeit with mitigation to raise it out of the floodplain," Amadon clarified.

Moretown Town Office Committee first came together in December of 2011 to conduct an all-inclusive survey of sites on which to rebuild, ultimately selecting Moretown Elementary School playground as the best option. In the meantime, Moretown established temporary town offices at Kaiser Drive on Route 2 in a building the town leases from Moretown Landfill.

Last November, Moretown residents voted 118 to 30 to approve up to $40,000 in short-term borrowing to construct the new town offices, which will cost an estimated $865,286. The town's out-of-pocket expense will be offset by the $700,000 CDBG, over $120,000 in insurance money and $25,000 from the town's Deeryard Fund, which is dedicated "use for children" and will pay to construct a new playground on the other side of the school.

Taking into account this available funding, the town's out-of-pocket expense for the new town offices comes in at about $5,000, and Moretown Town Office Committee asked the town to approve up to $40,000 in short-term borrowing to allow for overrun costs of a little less than 5 percent of the total cost.

Once the environmental assessment is approved, funds from CDBG will be made available to the town. Because of the time it's taken Moretown to do the assessment "starting the project this calendar year is unlikely," Amadon said, but he suspects construction of the new town offices will at least go out to bid by "early or mid-fall."


News Thu, 17 Jul 2014 16:34:48 -0400
Rich with art in The Valley

The 17th annual Vermont Festival of the Arts kicks off in just two weeks and artists, craftsmen, performers, musicians, dancers, chefs, photographers and singers are all getting ready for the month. With well over 100 events taking place during August, The Valley is the place to experience and participate in the arts in Vermont.

There are a number of art exhibits happening during this year's festival. Two of the most anticipated events are the annual Big Red Barn Art Show and Photo Show in the Round Barn. The Big Red Barn Art Show celebrates the artists and fine arts of The Valley. Every exhibitor lives in one of the towns touched by the Mad River. The two- and three-dimensional fine art includes paintings, etchings, monoprints and sculpture from over 40 local artists. Many well-known Valley artists will have their work on display including Julia Purinton, Joan Lane, Macy Moulton, Marilyn Ruseckas and Gary Eckhart.

The 25th annual Photo Show promises to be exciting. Photographers from all over New England enter their work in this major photography show each year. Presented by Green Mountain Cultural Center and overseen by Pam Lerner, this annual exhibit offers an opportunity to view photographs taken by both professional and amateur photographers. Color, black-and-white, hand-colored and digitally enhanced photographs will be on display in the classic round barn setting throughout the Festival. Jim Raye, videographer and photographer for Vermont Public Television, will be the guest speaker at the opening reception on August 6. He will be talking about the "beauty shots" he produces that are aired among the programming.

Other art exhibitions include one at Waitsfield United Church, which will be exhibiting the work of Vermont artist Janet McKenzie. The show, Holiness & the Feminine Spirit, is an extraordinary compilation of her work and will include her award-winning painting Jesus of the People. It has been many years since she has had a solo show of her work in Vermont and it shouldn't be missed. Pitcher Inn has brought back landscape impressionist Frank Corso for a week that will include a meet-the-artist reception and concert. Robert O'Brien, winner of Best in Show at the 2013 Green Mountain Watercolor Exhibition and awards judge of the current exhibit, presents his watercolor at Bridges Gallery.

Many smaller exhibits are just as important. Local Moretown artist Elga Gemst will have a display of her stained glass in the windows at the Festival Gallery. A variety of handmade quilts will be on view at White Horse Inn and sculptor John Matusz will open his studio on Route 100 to show his work and the clay sculptures of Ellen Urman. A selection of paintings from artists of Vermont Watercolor Society will be on display at Three Mountain Café.

There will be abundant opportunities to watch the artists at work, too. Artisans' Gallery hosts demonstrations every weekend during August. Gary Eckhart demonstrates his watercolor techniques at Parade Gallery on Wednesdays and offers his watercolor workshops throughout the month. Luke Iannuzzi will conduct his Raku Pottery Demo on August 23. Gaelic McTigue can be found painting her handcrafted Christmas ornaments at All Things Bright and Beautiful every day. People can see numerous artists in action at the Great Vermont Plein Air Paint-Out.

To try creating a masterpiece, sign up for a workshop. Roarke Sharlow is offering his digital photography classes, Bette Ann Libby still has space in her Mosaic Shard workshop and Barbara Pafume's "Painting Your Way" classes at Lareau Farm are a great introduction to painting.

Pick up festival programs at locations throughout The Valley or at the Festival Gallery in Village Square. For a full calendar of events visit For more information on these or any festival event call (802) 496-6682 or email


News Thu, 17 Jul 2014 16:29:03 -0400