In West Dover, the plan, created by Lamoureux & Dickinson, would create a gateway to the village at Dunn’s Corner and enhance the village area with traffic calming, parking, and other features along Route 100. Proposed landscaping options at the Town Common, library, and Town Hall ranged from a radical redevelopment of the entire area to minor improvements to parking and circulation. Jim Donovan, of Lamoureux & Dickinson, said that implementation of the plan would result in aesthetic improvements that would enhance economic development.
The group discussed three alternatives for landscaping at the Town Common, but Donovan told members of the public that he wasn’t asking them to pick a single choice. “If you like some of the things in Alternative A, something from Alternative B, and something from Alternative C, we can create a hybrid,” he said. “These are just ideas.”
Under the first alternative, the pavement in the current Town Hall parking area would be torn up, and become a grassy “multipurpose space.” To accommodate parking, the town would build a wide access road on the east side of the building that would have room for street parking and handicap parking. The road would continue to a new parking lot, situated behind the current day care “lower” playground area, and eventually intersect with Holland Road. Behind the Town Hall, a second access road would connect the library parking area to the main access road. The historic ice house would be relocated farther back from the Town Hall, and a simple log amphitheater would be located in the woods. The amphitheater would be used for schoolchildren and library patrons participating in educational programs.
Alternative B would retain some of the current Town Hall parking, but access to the area would be controlled with landscaping features and parking would be more clearly defined. The alternative included the same access road on the east side of the Town Hall, but it would lead to a parking area located even farther back than the lot proposed in Alternative A. There would be no access lane behind the Town Hall.
The least amount of change would come under Alternative C. There would still be an access road on the east side of the Town Hall, but it would simply run behind the hall and connect to the current Town Hall and library parking areas. The parking area would be minimally redefined by landscaping features.
Local residents contemplated the alternatives and asked a few questions, but Matterhorn Inn owner Joe Kruszewski asked the question that was on everyone’s mind. “What’s the price tag for each one?”
“We’d like to find out what you’d like to do the most, then do an estimate and see if we can help the community fund it,” Donovan said. “If you decide you just can’t then we’ll go back and look at a lesser alternative.”
“I like all of them,” replied Dover Selectboard member William “Buzzy” Buswell. “If you want our suggestions, we do need prices.”
“It’s very hard for you or this group to comment without relative cost,” added another resident. “If there were just some kind of price tags, it would be easier to talk intelligently about the best way to spend our money.”
Donovan agreed that Lamoureux & Dickinson would have prices and fallback options available at the next public work session, after a plan had been refined based on public input. “But if money were no object, is there anything you don’t like?”
“Alternative A is definitely the best,” said Kruszewski. “It utilizes all of the greenspace. If we had the money, that’s the one that I would go for.”
Charles LaFiura urged residents to choose the plan they thought was the best. “It’s a great idea to make this improvement,” he said. “I would make the point that we seize the opportunity to do it and do the best we can and not be overly concerned about pinching pennies. Once we do it, we’re not going to be able to do it again 10 to 15 years from now, so do it right. I would go for Alternative A.”
Carrie Dix said she supported a plan that would include more public greenspace and more play options for children. “Play areas for children are really limited now, so I love the idea of trails in the woods and any way to enrich the experience for children,” she said. “We’re isolated here, and for young families it’s easy to feel socially isolated. Public greenspace areas for social interaction would be really great.”
Dix also said that having the parking areas better defined was a good idea.
But Buswell said he was concerned about opening the wooded area behind the Town Hall and library. “We could be opening up a new playground for nighttime activities for teenagers,” he said. “Is anything going to control access to that back area?” Donovan said that the planning didn’t contemplate any controls along the wooded area. “Just a trail. Whatever exists would remain.”
Donovan also presented several sections of the proposed village enhancements to the group, pausing to take comments and suggestions for each section.
For those entering the village from the south, the first indication that they’re entering a village would be a prominent sign and a marked change in the landscape. “Trees on both sides of the road and on-street parking are good for slowing cars down,” Donovan said.
He noted that there was essentially a large, open, undefined access area running from Fernot’s garage near Dunn’s Corner all the way to Central Appliance. The plan includes some landscaping and on-street parking that would break up the stretch of uncontrolled access. “It would give it more of a village feel,” Donovan said.
At several points along Route 100, where there are currently open spaces, Donovan noted that there was potential for “infill,” or construction of new buildings that would make the area seem more village-like. When one person objected that the town can’t construct buildings on private land as part of a landscaping project, Donovan explained that it was simply a suggestion that could be addressed by zoning changes to encourage more compact building in the village area. “We’re just saying there’s potential,” he said. “If you think it makes sense, you might want to change zoning to allow it.”
The plan also accounted for Valley Trail Segment A, which is nearing the construction phase, as well as future Valley Trail segments.
Buswell expressed concerns about landscaping in the state’s right of way, and of snow removal problems that could be created by planting trees along the road.
“VTrans is okay with planting trees, they give you distances from the road that they should be planted,” Donovan said. “We’ve been in contact with them, they’ve been informed about this. We’re not doing this in a void.” Responding to a comment from Eddie Barber, Donovan noted that there were several species of salt resistant trees that are suitable for roadside planting in Vermont.
John Sprung questioned the need for the amount of on-street parking included in the plan.
“We could use some more parking down where my building is,” replied Rich Caplan.
“Except for the town office, I don’t believe there’s one municipal parking spot in West Dover,” said Adam Levine. “The town took the initiative to put in the Valley Trail and we’ve invited people to come into town and go snowshoeing, bicycling, and walking. And it has seen a lot of use. None of those people are parking in a municipal spot, they’re parking in someone’s space.”
“A lot of this is to make it more enticing to stop,” added Donovan. Buswell also questioned whether sidewalks included in the plan were wise for the town of Dover. “I have a concern with the sidewalks because of liability to the town,” he said. “And I’m concerned that the green areas will be expensive to maintain. There’s a lot of costs beyond what we’d spend on development.”
“It sounds like you don’t think that option is very good,” commented Donovan.
“Not personally,” Buswell said. “A lot of people think sidewalks are necessary. Well, if you want sidewalks, go live in New York City or Boston.”
Donovan said that towns don’t take on liability when sidewalks are added, and they might reduce their liability. “We have no liability,” Buswell said. “It’s a state road.”
Donovan said there were other options, not included in the plan, that the town might consider, such as taking over Route 100 through the village. “The state gives you money to help pay for maintenance, and it would give you a lot more control over what’s happening.”
He also suggested the town advocate for inclusion of the southern part of Route 100 as part of the designated Vermont Route 100 Scenic Byway. “That makes you eligible for other types of funding, reimbursements, and puts you on a national database of byways that increase tourist traffic to the area.”