Apparently responding to concerns about a lack of hydrologic, geologic, and engineering data about the Country Club Road Project raised by city councilor Tim Heney, Montpelier consultant Stephanie Clarke emphasized that Phase I is intended to provide a “vision” for development of the property. “It is not a capital investment plan, but a concept plan that will be incorporated into the master plan,” she said.
Clarke, vice president at White + Burke Real Estate Advisors, said, “We know there is an immediate need for housing and recreation in the community. And that there are many more steps required until the point of construction.” Her point was emphasized later in the meeting by Joshua Jerome, the city’s community and economic development specialist, who said the Phase I process will provide the vision to guide research for site and engineering data during Phase 2.
A decision has been made to separate planning for a new recreation building and related outdoor facilities, possibly on a 12-acre segment of the 135-acre property, from the three “Concept Alternatives” prepared for the rest of the property.
“A separate but parallel process is underway right now to make decisions about the uses, layout, partners, and design of the recreational and community needs that could fit on that area of the space,” Clarke said. This area is labeled “Recreation and Community Zone” on the updated maps.
Overall, 80% of the property will remain open space and “natural areas,” Clarke said. Consistent elements in all three plans are trails, neighborhood gathering spaces, corridors for wildlife connectivity, stream and wetland buffers, and possible sufficient space for community gardens. Clarke also has met with Abenaki representatives who have indicated a preference for broader representation of their history in Montpelier than a specific site on the property.
The three concept drafts each have a varying number of housing units, ranging from 294 units at the most to just under 200 units. All show proposed roadways and potential additional roads for vehicle access, although any of those will require negotiation with neighboring property owners.
Announcing that a new survey has been open from May 1 to May 12, Clarke said, “Public input is still a priority in the process.” She also noted that, in addition to housing and recreation, other leading concerns raised so far include open space, preservation of wildlife corridors, and “minimal impact on taxpayers.” Regarding housing, “The resounding response was not single-family housing,” she added. The emphasis was on affordable housing for workers, seniors, and lower-income families.
Barbara Conrey asked, “What’s the likelihood Montpelier will actually get a state TIF?”
A significant resource for funding the $15 to $18.8 million projected cost to the city for infrastructure improvements is Tax Increment Financing (TIF) through the state. Although Montpelier does not currently have a TIF in place, it is potentially a viable strategy for constructing road, water, and sewer services. The TIF program provides that repayment is spread over 20 years with the state retaining 70% of funds that would otherwise have gone to the education fund, Clarke said.
Many steps — zoning and growth center district designation for example – need to be in place before qualifying for a TIF. For instance, it is significant that dense housing is in the plans, Clarke said. “Actual financing for any development will involve negotiations with private developers, utilities, and the several nonprofit organizations that are potential supporters of the project,” she said.
A brief video summarizing the final concept plan, including the three updated site plans, is available on YouTube. More details can be found on the city website as well.