Home Commentary Heard on the Street, 12.15.21

Heard on the Street, 12.15.21

Pictured is a view of Montpelier from Cliff Street just below Hubbard Park. Photo by Carla Occaso.

Zoning Change Could Enable WCMHS Housing

If a zoning proposal passes, Washington County Mental Health may build housing for its clients and possibly some employees at the north end of its 2.4-acre lot on Heaton Street in Montpelier. Keith Grier, director of the Washington County Mental Health Services Community Support Program, speaking at a recent Planning Commission hearing, said the proposed zoning change “would allow us to put in family housing,” potentially adding 22 units within its existing building and in four houses in a wooded area adjacent to its parking lot.

Vermont College of Fine Arts Seeking Zoning Change

An application by the Vermont College of Fine Arts to seek approval of a campus “planned unit development” that could alter the normal requirements of the Mixed Use Residential District zone where the college is located was the subject of a “sketch plan review” hearing before the Montpelier Development Review Board on Dec. 6.

A main discussion point was whether conditional uses, which require public input and review by the board, should be converted for the college to permitted uses in a campus planned unit development. In its application, the college listed some conditional uses that it thinks could naturally fit on the campus, including hotels, restaurants, retail sales, and various types of housing. Public comments were divided, with some people suggesting some or all of the conditional uses should remain conditional, and others — many citing housing needs — suggesting that all the conditional uses become permitted.

Montpelier Police Aim Lasers at Berlin Street Drivers

Those speeding on Berlin Street came under scrutiny recently by local law enforcement. In late November, the Montpelier Police Department reported that officers patrolled Berlin Street using LIDAR (laser) devices to document vehicle speeds. Many vehicles were stopped and ticketed, and some were going faster than 45 miles per hour. The posted speed limit on Berlin Street is 30 miles per hour. 

A police department social media post explains: “LIDAR stands for ‘Light Detection And Ranging’ and measures distance by illuminating a target with a laser and analyzing the reflected light. In the case of Montpelier’s LIDAR speed devices, the burst of invisible-to-the-eye laser light is analyzed to determine a vehicle’s speed, much like radio waves and RADAR, but with pinpoint accuracy. This allows officers to detect speeding vehicles at great distances and among heavy traffic. The LIDAR devices can also be used as laser rangefinders, allowing officers to measure great distances efficiently, such as at a large crash or crime scene.” 

Lights Out: Street Light Repair Work Underway

Some people may have noticed that some of Montpelier’s downtown street lights are dark while others are shining bright. The Montpelier Department of Public Works has a contractor working to make repairs to lights, according to a recent City Manager’s report. There are a variety of issues such as ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) deficiencies, wiring problems, and bulbs that are out.

Norwich University Prof. Poodiack Honored

Norwich University’s Robert Poodiack, professor and chair of the mathematics department, has won the 2022 Mathematical Association of America Certificate for Meritorious Service for the Northeastern Section. This is the first time anyone from Norwich University has received an association award.

—Compiled by Carla Occaso with contributions from Phil Dodd