Archive - Nov 30, 2007
MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury College’s decision to donate $9 million toward an in-town bridge project at Cross Street represents the third substantial town-gown partnership to have come to the fore this year.
High on the plateau above the New Haven River overlooking the village of Bristol rests a fertile 11-acre hay meadow with spectacular views of Deerleap Mountain, the Bristol Cliffs, Bristol’s downtown and views west toward the Adirondacks. With a thin row of trees bordering the meadow on two sides and high mountains at its back, the site is as picturesque as it gets in Vermont — and that’s pretty special.
But the purpose of a site visit this past Monday at this scenic location, wasn’t to admire the view and imagine the good fortune that 25 or 30 families might have if a residential neighborhood were established there in the distant future, or in the similarly sized wooded section that borders the meadow on the south side. Rather, the District 9 Environmental Commission held a public site visit to give its members, Bristol residents and others an opportunity to walk the site and learn the details of a proposed gravel pit that would excavate untold hundreds of thousands of tons of gravel for the next 35 or more years.
The questions answered during the site visit were of a technical nature: if the access road goes here, how will the traffic flow; what landscaping will be done to hide the cut into the woods; what will be done to mitigate the noise, gravel dust and visual scars to the land; where will the digging begin, how will it proceed? They talked about 200-foot setbacks and test pits and the steepness of access and egress roads.
But the central question of whether a conditional use permit should be granted to allow the significant parcel to be mined as a gravel pit or left, as some argue the town’s municipal plan suggests, as a residential area for future growth was not discussed.
It is, however, the question Bristol residents should reconsider in a public process.
Today’s front-page headline is a stunner: Middlebury College pledges $9 million to help the town build the long-discussed Cross Street Bridge. As a gift to the town, it’s huge and most generous. But the bigger story is the message behind the gift — it’s a new era in town-gown relations that promises a greater degree of cooperation and interaction to the benefit of both.
And that’s terrific.
This new era is punctuated by several factors:
• The current generation of students are doers, says Middlebury College President Ron Liebowitz, and the college campus may not be big enough for them throughout their four-year stint. Interaction with the town and area communities allows them to spread their wings, pursue interests off campus, provide valuable services and gain an understanding of community outside the college.
November 30, 2007
By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — For more than a half-century, Middlebury’s quest for a second in-town crossing of the Otter Creek has moved slower than rush-hour traffic along the town’s Main Street.
But that figurative and literal gridlock may soon be lifted thanks to a pledge by Middlebury College to donate $9 million toward a new in-town bridge project that would link Main Street to Court Street over the Otter Creek via Cross Street.
College and municipal officials on Monday confirmed to the Addison Independent the donation pledge — made at the request of the town — which will take the form of annual payments of $600,000 over 30 years to cover the interest and principal payments on the bonds that Middlebury will float for construction of the span.
Total cost of the in-town bridge project is being placed at $16 million, with $7 million of that amount associated with related intersection upgrades, road improvements and acquisition of four properties within the project right-of-way. Selectmen will look to other funding sources — including the federal government and local taxpayers — to cover that remaining $7 million.
“What I hope is that this is a step in the evolutionary process in the relationship between the town and college, that both feel more comfortable working with each other collaboratively, to the benefit of both… ” Middlebury College President Ronald Liebowitz said of the financial pledge for the bridge, a structure he believes could serve not only as a vital traffic conduit, but also as a metaphor for a new era of town-gown collaborations in tackling common challenges.