Archive - Aug 18, 2008
By KATHRYN FLAGG
RIPTON — Writers traveling the flood-damaged Route 125 to the Middlebury College Bread Loaf campus last week passed a familiar landmark on their way to the annual writers’ conference: the cozy white Homer Noble farmhouse, where poet Robert Frost spent his summers from 1939 until his death in 1963.
The farmhouse was the object of sadness for many Frost fans last winter after a group of local teens vandalized the property, which is a National Historic Landmark and much-loved literary attraction.
But interest in the four-time Pulitzer Prize winner has been rekindled, with two celebrations of his life and work planned for this fall in Middlebury and a move by Middlebury College to strengthen its historic relationship with the poet.
The college last week announced a new Robert Frost Farm and Cabin Preservation Fund aimed at protecting and maintaining the property that should alleviate concerns about the fate of the oft-visited Ripton landmark. Unveiled alongside the fund were plans to employ a writer-in-residence — likely a poet — who will occupy the farmhouse year-round.
“This is going to bring the farm back to life,” said Daniel Breen, director of graduate giving at the college. “We’re very happy that we’re taking something that was negative and turning it into a positive. We’re proud to be stewards of this part of Robert Frost’s legacy and we look forward to continuing that.”
According to Breen, discussion of ways to better protect the property cropped up immediately following last December’s break-in.
“The college was looking at what we could do to keep the farm safe,” said Breen. “A natural way is to have someone live there.”
By ANDY KIRKALDY
FERRISBURGH — Addison County fire service veterans see the banners outside of the Ferrisburgh Fire Department’s Route 7 station as signs of the times.
Those recruiting banners read: “Volunteers Wanted, It’s easier than you think” and “Seeking Volunteers, You CAN Do It!”
Ferrisburgh Fire Chief Bill Wager said until recent years his volunteer department has had about 30 firefighters. Now, with recruiting failing to keep pace with retirements and resignations, his ranks have dwindled to 19.
It’s getting to the point, Wager said, where Ferrisburgh’s tactics at fires may be changed: Federal safety rules reasonably require, for example, that two firefighters remain outside a burning structure for every two who enter it.
“I think we’re going to be faced with being much more creative with staffing and how we engage the fire, what tactics we’re using ... whether we make an attack on the fire or take a defensive posture to protect other structures,” he said.
His department also calls other volunteer departments for mutual aid for significant fires, and now must cast a wider net asking for help: Many other towns also have fewer volunteers available to respond.
“Usually we called one or two departments to get enough staffing, but now we call four or five departments,” Wager said.
While they have some ideas on how to create incentives for new recruits and many departments’ numbers remain healthy, fire service leaders say the problem is widespread in the county, state and nation.
Addison County Firefighters Association President and Vergennes Fire Department Deputy Chief Jim Breur said numbers are down in many communities, and that many towns are also dealing with aging rosters.
By KATHRYN FLAGG
MIDDLEBURY — At the forefront of a public hearing last Tuesday on proposed changes in zoning and subdivision regulations was a hot button topic for Middlebury residents: plans to restrict so-called “big box” development in all of the town’s zoning districts.
The hearing was the latest step in a major update of Middlebury zoning and subdivision regulations, which have been in the works for several years. Selectmen must approve the current draft regulations or send them back to the planning commission with recommended changes.
Many residents at the well-attended selectboard meeting commended the Middlebury Planning Commission, which drafted zoning regulation revisions that make permanent the interim zoning ban on building mega-stores enacted two years ago. The interim ban, which has expired, prohibited any single retail store larger than 50,000 square feet in all Middlebury zoning districts.
Some critics of “formula retail” and big box businesses, fearing the impact those national franchises could have on Middlebury’s character and economy, called for even stronger restrictions to keep such businesses from locating here.
“Now there is a need for, I think, a next step along this same way,” said Bill McKibben, a Ripton resident and environmental writer. “Square footage is always going to be a crude measure.”
Ripton resident Michele Fay agreed.
“It doesn’t necessarily have to do with the size of a … store,” Fay said. “It has more to do with the money staying within the local economy and people in the community benefiting from that.”
McKibben, along with other area residents, suggested the Planning Commission and selectboard turn a critical eye on even small and medium-size franchise store developments — such as Starbucks, which considered building in Middlebury last year.