More than 50 people with many suggestions turned out for the first of three public discussions of the initial “sketches” prepared by White + Burke Real Estate Advisors, a consultant hired by the city of Montpelier, for the former Elks Club property purchased by the city. The Saturday, Jan. 28 morning meeting was held on site, against the backdrop of several dozen high-school Nordic skiers racing on a course set around the former golf course. The second of the three winter meetings will be held on site and via Zoom Thursday, Feb. 2 at city hall from 6 to 8 p.m. (To login, go to the city’s Country Club Road website page, and scroll down a ways to “Updates,” scroll a bit more and the login information is there.) Public and stakeholder surveys conducted so far have indicated that housing and recreation, followed by environmental quality, are the leading concerns about the future use of the 140-acre property. As discussion continues, it is clear that finding an acceptable balance among those concerns is the challenge central to the project. Stephanie Clarke, presenter for White + Burke, emphasized that the city’s approach to the development planning is to be “transparent and inclusive.” At the same time, she acknowledged that currently available funding will expire, creating pressure to make planning decisions before summer. Still, actual development of the site is a process that is going to take years.Those attending the meeting offered a variety of perspectives and options beyond the three concept sketches for the planners to consider: · Presentations about the property should include maps of its physical relationship to the rest of the city, not as a stand-alone, satellite neighborhood. · Given the current, limited traffic capacity at the intersection of Country Club Road with busy U.S. Route 2, what are the prospects and limitations for additional access through adjacent properties? · Since part of the property has prime agricultural soil, can gardening access be considered? · Will the housing provide the opportunity for mixed income, multiple generations, and local workers to have affordable homes or rentals? · Can housing and roads be designed to retain recreational use of the property? · Is cohousing an option? (“Cohousing is a community designed to foster connection. Physical spaces allow neighbors to easily interact with others just outside private homes. Common areas including kitchen, dining space, and gardens bring people together,” according to the Cohousing Association of America) · Could the site be used, in collaboration with the U-32 district, for a school building? · When will we have sufficient data about the project and the land to make an informed decision? Other concerns raised centered on the possible location of a proposed solar array — stand-alone or restricted to rooftops? The on-site survey of those attending the meeting showed a strong preference for apartment and condominium housing over single-family homes. “Please keep in mind that we are going to see a continuing impact of climate migrants on our housing,” said Montpelier resident Ben Huffman. He also suggested keeping the 19th century development patterns that shaped the use of Montpelier’s hillsides for housing. To see the conceptual site plans and other public documents related to the Country Club Road side, go here.