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Selectboard to review Middlebury town plan

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury selectboard on Sept. 18 will hold its first of two public hearings on a proposed updated town plan that now bears many of the suggested changes offered by citizens at two planning commission hearings held this past spring.
Middlebury Planning Commission Chairwoman Nancy Malcolm officially delivered the updated plan to the selectboard on Tuesday, completing yet another in several statutory steps intended to lead to the document’s approval by the board this fall. Malcolm explained the commission has been working on the latest update for the past three years. The town plan is intended to serve as the community’s five-year vision for development as well as an inventory of its attributes.
The commission convened a series of public forums and gathered public feedback to come up with the 199-page document presented for comments at the panel’s two public hearings during the spring. And the commission heard support as well as criticism, some of which was aimed at the length of the document, a perceived anti-development tone, and for suggesting that Middlebury College should be making a larger financial contribution to the town based on its impact and enrollment.
Malcolm told the selectboard on Tuesday that she and her colleagues took the criticism to heart and discussed it as a group over a combined total of 16 hours of meeting time.
“It is very gratifying to know that people care and that they are reading (the town plan) and going through it,” Malcolm said. “We took (the criticisms) very seriously, very respectfully.”
As a result, Malcolm said the commission made “a lot of changes, some that were concerning the tone. I cannot say that the length is a lot shorter.”
Malcolm and Town Planner Fred Dunnington presented the selectboard with 10 pages of specific changes the commission did and did not make based on feedback at the public hearings. These latest changes are reflected in the draft that the selectboard received on Tuesday. The document — and a related memo from the planning commission — were being uploaded onto the town’s website (middlebury.govoffice.com) as the Addison Independent went to press on Wednesday, and is also on the Independent’s website at www.addisonindependent.com.
Malcolm acknowledged the commission could not incorporate all of the suggested changes, calling the town plan a “balancing act.” She said individual sections of the plan can’t be viewed in isolation.
“You can’t look at it just through one tunnel,” she said. “It’s so easy to get caught up in having people read it from their point of view… ”
That said, Malcolm believes the commission did a good job in reflecting the broad views of Middlebury residents in the plan.
“We did the best that we could,” she said. “We are really proud of this document.”
Residents will now have an opportunity to review the latest town plan draft and weigh in with the selectboard with any remaining concerns they might have.
“When you have your public hearings, I am sure that there will be some of the same issues brought in again if they were not changed, but I am hoping it will clear up why we did what we did,” Malcolm told the selectboard. “Of course, it is totally up to you to do what you wish to do with it. You can take our direction or not, but at least you know how we came up with those conclusions, and hopefully everyone else will, too.”
Selectman Victor Nuovo served as the board’s liaison to the planning commission.
“This committee worked very hard and very seriously through all of the concerns and I think in a very respectful way,” Nuovo said. “I was very impressed by the willingness of citizens to step forward and take on very heavy tasks… ”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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