While the board had the option of approving the draft agreement, assistant fire chief Richard Covey told the board that there were still questions to be addressed, and the department was not in possession of site plans for the development of a proposed five-story hotel at the resort. “They could be putting up a one-story Cape house instead of a five-story hotel; we don’t know we haven’t seen any plans,” said Covey.
Haystack has agreed to honor an agreement between past owners of Haystack and the Wilmington Fire Department and donate funds close to $300,000 toward a new firefighting apparatus. With no representatives of the Hermitage at the meeting, and multiple questions raised by Covey, the board decided to take no action. With a submission date for Act 250 permitting next week for their master plan, the Hermitage is seeking to shore up loose ends and include the agreement in their plans. Board member Susie Haughwout said that the board could hold an emergency meeting next week before the submission date, but with no one at the meeting to answer questions, and no assurance the agreement had been vetted by an attorney, the board could take no action.
“The fire chief isn’t here, the Hermitage isn’t here, and we’re deciding on whether to sign a document?”said Haughwout. “We don’t know what we’re doing and I’m not comfortable with it.”
Board member Tom Fitzgerald pointed out that there was a clause in the draft that would lock the town into a 10-year commitment. “What if we need a larger truck? Where are we going to put it? I’m not willing to sign this, there’s too many questions,” said Fitzgerald. “If we agree to this, there’s a period of 10 years where we can’t go back and discuss it more. Where do we stand if voters turn this down, and don’t want to finance this?”
Board member Jake White said that he believed the document was nothing more than a preliminary endorsement from the board for the Hermitage to move forward. The board would ultimately decide that no signature could be given to an agreement just yet. “I have no desire to throw a cog in the wheel in development of the Hermitage,” said Haughwout. “I think some of us feel uninformed and leery approving this document.”
In other action, the selectboard allotted funds of up to $20,000 from the 1% option tax for two separate projects. Susan Lawrence and Sheila Osler presented the board with a plan for new welcome signs for the town, which will feature the Arnett and Muldrow-designed logo as well as interchangeable plaques for each season. The plan also calls for hand-crafted signs for the historic village, as well as fresh parking signs. The other $20,000 approval was for the expansion of broadband coverage on and around Higley Hill, an area where economic development consultant Gretchen Havreluk said she identified 28 home businesses. “I applied for that area to become a business district and I don’t think Vermont Telecommunications believed me,” said Havreluk. “They came and held a meeting with business owners and 28 showed up.”
According to Havreluk, VTA put out a request for information and received a bid from Duncan Cable. The project will cost $215,003, of which the VTA will contribute $127,003, Duncan Cable will provide $68,000, and with the selectboard’s approval, $20,000 will come from the 1% fund. Havreluk said that residences in the area will also be able to get broadband.
Selectboard chair Jim Burke cast the deciding vote on a consensus of the board to go ahead with pursuing the town’s takeover of permitting and enforcement of the Shoreland Protection Act. White and Haughwout provided the dissenting votes. They felt more questions needed answering, but vice chair Diane Chapman and Fitzgerald both agreed that they wanted the town, rather than the agency of natural resources, to control the issue.