Selectboard members set a town tax rate after adjusting the town’s revenue by appropriating a surplus for the current (as of July 1) budget. Without the action, Dover taxpayers would have been facing a town tax of 39.5 cents which, combined with the school tax, would have meant a total tax of $1.89 for residential properties and $1.88 for nonresidential properties.
Board members voted to appropriate $97,000 from an “operational fund” surplus balance of $146,271, and another $97,000 from the highway department fund surplus balance of $192,854. The action reduced the tax rates by 2 cents.
“We also have that unallocated reserve of $560,000 or $580,000,” noted Terk. “We need to remember to include an article in the next Town Meeting warning that will allow us to use the reserve for whatever comes up, for instance, if we had another Irene with over $1 million in damage.”
Selectboard members settled, at least for now, the matter of improvements to Hathaway Trail. At their last meeting, board members heard from Richard Meduski and his representatives, who sought a second variance for improvements to Hathaway Trail. Meduski is developing five Someday lots in a subdivision on the public trail. Earlier in the year, the board had granted Meduski’s request to improve the trail to 20 feet wide rather than the 22-foot-wide road that would be required under the town’s road ordinance. On June 17, Meduski, accompanied by attorney Bob Fisher, requested an additional reduction in the road width to 18 feet. They said the steep terrain dictated the reduced width, and would reduce cost as well as ecological impact.
Board members expressed concerns about road safety, access for emergency vehicles, and the continued use of the public trail for snowmobiles.
This week, Fisher addressed their concerns. “First, with regard to public use, it’s going to remain public and it’s the full intention of Mr. Meduski to keep this open to the public. He can’t deny access to the public, obviously. This is not a matter of someone trying to take away snowmobiling, in fact this is designed to facilitate snowmobiling in the road. Access to the trails is one of the reasons Mr. Meduski bought the property.”
Fisher also addressed concerns about traffic safety, noting that 18-foot-wide roads are “common and recommended for developments that generate fewer than 100 trips per day.” Fisher said the development was projected to create about 16 trips per day. “There will be plenty of room for vehicles to pass, in addition there are two pullouts and beyond that we have the turnarounds that are designed and approved for larger trucks and fire trucks.”
Fisher went on to point out that there are Class III roads in the town that have sections of road that are 18 feet wide, also because of the terrain.
Bob Stevens, of engineering and design firm Stevens and Associates, said that a study by the federal department of housing and urban development concluded that wider roads aren’t necessarily safer roads. “The study documented that the only relationship between safety and roads is speed. If people feel like they can see ahead and have a wider road, they’ll go faster,” he said. “If it’s narrower, people drive slower and that is safer for pedestrians.”
Meduski also weighed in, telling board members that he has connections to the area going back 40 years, has been a member of the Deerfield Valley Stump Jumpers, and plans to maintain the road to a high standard for snowmobilers. “We’ll have an association so people will have to maintain the property, keep it mowed, and looking like a decent place. The people who live there will be contributing to the community, not just with their taxes. My kids are going to be here, my grandkids are going to be here, and we want to be good community citizens. And I think we are.”
Board member Tom Baltrus noted that there was a serious snowmobile accident on the trail several years ago, when a snowmobiler went over the edge of the trail and down a steep embankment. “I have a concern about having a place to go for a snowmobiler if he or she has to ditch it over the side for an oncoming car.”
Stevens said the safest place for a snowmobiler is to be in the lane instead of on the side of the road. He said there would be room on the road for a snowmobile and a car to pass, and no need for a snowmobiler to pull off the road.
Linda Holland suggested that Meduski’s maintenance personnel may have a hard time clearing snow from the portions of the road that are next to steep embankments, which could further narrow the road, making it unsafe for vehicles and snowmobiles to pass.
Stevens said plows may have difficulty, and it could narrow the road, but he said that’s typical of Vermont rural roads. “People drive appropriately for those conditions.”
On a motion to approve a road width of 18 feet with no shoulders, three board members voted in favor, with two against. “I wonder if we’re setting a precedent, and opening up all of our trails to vehicular traffic,” said Holland.
“I don’t think we are,” replied selectboard chair Randy Terk. “Anyone can request improvement to a town trail, and we can say ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ But that’s just my opinion.”
In highway department matters, the board approved a $181,000 expenditure from the $220,000 highway equipment fund to purchase a new grader. There were several grader bids, and road commissioner Bobby Holland recommended the board purchase the John Deere model which, although the most expensive model, was the least costly to the town thanks to the company’s offer on Dover’s trade-in.