Home News and Features Council Votes to Ease Personal Property Tax Value Costs

Council Votes to Ease Personal Property Tax Value Costs

Marek Zajac, left, speaks after receiving an award during the Montpelier City Council meeting May 8. Council members Adrienne Gil, Cary Brown, and Sal Alfano look on. ORCA Media screenshot.
Many downtown Montpelier business owners have been given permission to pay “personal property tax value” at the 2023 rate rather than an increased 2024 rate as part of a flood relief effort. The Montpelier City Council approved City Assessor Marty Lagerstedt’s request for the move following a brief description of the situation during the council’s May 8 meeting.

Most downtown business owners were forced to purchase new items after last summer’s flood, causing expenses to spike. Several of them approached the city about wanting to abate the higher tax values, since they were caused by the flood. Lagerstedt suggested “rolling back to 2023” values as a way to ease the situation.

“If we don’t do that, 77 people are going to have to fill out tax abatement forms and 77 people are going to have to come before us,” he said. Mayor Jack McCullough said he thought this would be an efficient way to handle it, and the rest of the city council voted in agreement.

Personal property items taxed by the city include computers, printers, scanners, copiers, phone systems, restaurant equipment, desks, chairs, cabinets, tables, and shelving, according to the Personal Property Form business owners are required to file annually with the assessor’s office. McCullough said he looked into the importance of such a tax in the first place, since it can be a time-consuming nuisance to business owners, but he learned it generates $343,000 per year, “so we can’t just stop doing it. It would shift (the burden) onto other taxpayers.”

City Council Adopts Development Agreement Policy

The Montpelier City Council also adopted a development agreement policy to address commercial and residential development proposals. The goal of the policy is to allow the city of Montpelier to act as a development partner to cover the cost of infrastructure if the city can make it easier for developers to afford to build housing, according to a document accompanying the draft agreement presented by Josh Jerome, director of community and economic development. 

Without city assistance on infrastructure, the resulting developments are either unaffordable or never come to fruition. 

“The city of Montpelier also finds that increased economic development in the form of commercial and industrial projects is a public good. …These economic development projects add jobs and grow the grand list, contributing to the long-term prosperity of Montpelier,” the cover sheet to the agreement states. 

For example, Caledonia Spirits needed help with improving its water lines and wastewater infrastructure. The city contributed around $100,000 toward the effort to make it possible for the distillery to locate here. 

“The increased water use the distillery generated paid back the revolving loan fund in five years,” the document states.

The most pressing current project is a large residential development proposed for Isabel Circle. The Isabel Circle housing development got its Act 250 permit on May 6 and is ready to proceed, according to anrweb.vt.gov/anr/act250/agenda.aspx

The project completes development plans for 61 residential units that include single-family homes, quadplexes, open-space parcels, and concrete sidewalks. Utilities serving the proposed project will include municipal water, wastewater, electric, telecom services, stormwater swales, piping, and treatment areas, according to the Agency of Natural Resources website.The Act 250 permit was submitted in September 2023 by Gabriel LaJeunesse of Stonewall Meadows Phase II LLC.

“They do have somebody who is very interested in purchasing a significant number of lots up there, so it is real, and I think trying to help them make this happen is really important to get more people into the community spending money and increasing the tax base,” Jerome said. The city council voted to adopt the policy.

DPW Deemed Best in New England

The Montpelier Department of Public Works won the “Outstanding Public Works Department of the Year” by the New England Chapter of the American Public Works Association, according to City Manager William Fraser. They won it for responding to an emergency that saved lives and infrastructure, using technology to improve communications, and increasing efficiency. 

“We are very proud of the DPW,” Fraser said. “I thought the public would like to know we’ve got the best public works department in New England, but that’s no surprise to us,” Fraser said.

Marek Zajac Wins Award

Marek Zajak, farm and forest community coordinator for the Montpelier Parks Department, won the first annual award for an outstanding staff person or volunteer. According to Alec Ellsworth, director of the Parks and Trees Department, Zajac went above and beyond during the flood last summer. “Marek stood out to be recognized in a way that doesn’t exist,” Ellsworth said.

Zajac was credited with helping to set up the “hub” — a station that started out with three tents on a small vacant lot in downtown Montpelier to receive people who needed help and direct volunteers to the people who needed help. “What came out of the hub was beautiful and challenging,” Zajac had written. It allowed him to talk to people from all walks of life and to gather and lend out much-needed tools such as generators, dehumidifiers, and shovels. “We found a way to live again as a city,” Zajac said.

Because of Zajac’s data input into spreadsheets, Ellsworth said his department is able to know that they tracked over 14,000 volunteer hours spent by over 3,000 volunteers contributing to flood relief. Zajac dealt with people in person, over the phone, and by email as well as combing through spreadsheets every day to see who needed what. This documentation helped when it came time to report information to FEMA, Ellsworth said.

Strategic Plan Presentations

Arne McMullen presented on the Community Services Department, Amy Pitton presented on the Montpelier Senior Activity Center, and Alec Ellsworth presented on the Trees and Parks Department as part of the city’s overall strategic plans. 

McMullen said aging infrastructure is one of the biggest challenges, but he is looking forward to developing programs at the Country Club Road center. 

Pitton pointed out how limited parking and a limited staff is an issue for the Montpelier Senior Activity Center, but it reaches Montpelier and several other surrounding communities and helps keep people over 50 active and connected. She further said that 42% of Montpelier residents are over 50. 

Ellsworth described how Montpelier is ever increasing in popularity as a recreation destination for travelers. Further, the tree program has done a lot to generate income and assist people in need by cutting and delivering firewood.

Liquor Licenses

Liquor licenses were approved for North Branch Cafe on State Street (including outdoor consumption), Langdon Street Tavern (first class, second class), and the Skinny Pancake (first class, outdoor consumption).