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Editorial: Bristol’s firehouse blues

In Bristol, there is enough public dissention over the location of a proposed new fire station to warrant further review. To do that, town residents would reject the current proposal they’ll face on Town Meeting Day and look forward to fine-tuning the proposal — or considering another — later in the year.
A rejection of the proposed bond is not a reflection on the town’s willingness to support a new fire station. On the contrary, the public sentiment seems to endorse the need for additional space and a willingness to support the added taxes required. But this particular location is problematic for many neighbors and others who think the facility would spoil the character of that neighborhood. Furthermore, the size of the building is too big for the lot without asking for exemptions for standard setbacks and other provisions.
Ironically, it is Bristol’s very charm that makes siting the fire station problematic. The neighborhoods in much of the village are old-style residential with a quaintness that matches the bucolic setting at the base of Deerleap Mountain and opposite the valley of the Bristol Cliffs Wilderness area. The downtown’s extra wide Main Street with ample diagonal parking in front of the businesses on both sides (Middlebury pines with envy) creates an aura of hustle and energy that oozes excitement, even on the slowest of days and evenings. It’s a charm that has substantial value, but can be compromised by projects that do not fit the village character.
The challenge is that few spots in the village actually invite the type of oversized fire station that communities need today to handle the ever larger firetrucks and equipment.
That said, a more inclusive process that allows residents an opportunity to thoroughly review the current proposal, as well as discuss other options, will most assuredly recommend a location and a building design that fits the bill. (The current review process was delayed pending private negotiations with neighboring property owners that weren’t concluded early enough to afford residents more time for discussion (see story Page 1A.) We’re also confident that could happen within a time frame, perhaps via a special election, that would still allow building to begin by the spring/summer of 2014 — close enough to the same construction schedule the current proposal anticipates.
What’s critical is that the community endorse the project wholly, and that Bristol’s charm is enhanced, not compromised.
Angelo S. Lynn

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