Middlebury OKs new park closing and junk regulations

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury selectboard at its Tuesday evening meeting voted 6-0 (with Selectman Brian Carpenter absent) in favor of some amendments to the town’s ordinance for the “daily closing of parks.”
Those changes included adding several new pieces of public property to the parks list, including the former Lazarus building property at 20 Main St. (now being reconfigured as a pop-up park), the powerhouse property at the Otter Creek Falls, and the so-called “Happy Trail” property that borders the Otter Creek in Middlebury’s Frog Hollow district and off Weybridge Street.
The amendments, endorsed by the selectboard after a brief public hearing, mean the aforementioned property will be added to the list of public lands that are closed to people between 9 p.m. and 6:30 a.m.
Local officials acknowledge the changes are in part due to a recent long-term camper on the Happy Trail. The selectboard has asked officials from the Helping Overcome Poverty’s Effects (HOPE) social services agency to reach out to the homeless man to get him more permanent housing.
Resident Alpine Bingham told the selectboard he had allowed the man in question to camp on his family’s property off Creek Road. Terms of a conservation easement on that land meant the homeless man had to leave the Bingham property, Bingham said. While the man posed no problems while staying on the Bingham property, Alpine Bingham said it might be difficult to find him a job due to personality issues.
The ordinance changes will take effect within 40 days of Tuesday’s meeting.
In other action on Tuesday, the Middlebury selectboard discussed a request to have the town budget voted by Australian ballot (see story here), and also:
•  Unanimously OK’d some changes to the town’s junk ordinance. Those changes will make violations a civil (rather than criminal) offense; require a complaint to be generated by a neighbor or someone with direct interest in the matter; set the fine per offense at $1,000, with a $200 waiver fine for each occurrence; and allow for a lien to be placed against the offending property.
•  Announced the indefinite closure of a portion of Creek Road, from the 3 Mile Bridge Road intersection northward to a point approximately one mile south of the ACTR bus facility. This closure, according to Middlebury Director of Operations Dan Werner, is necessary due to damage to the roadway from the encroachment of Otter Creek. He said farmers in the area will be allowed to access their fields in spite of the road closure.
•  Agreed to a $36,419 contract with G. Stone Motors to purchase a 2016 Ford F-360, one-ton pickup truck with Iroquois body. The purchase of a new one-ton truck had been approved at town meeting in March.
•  Noted an upcoming collaboration with Middlebury College educators and students in the design of a future multi-model transportation center. That center would be built in anticipation of Amtrak passenger rail service along the state’s western corridor, through Middlebury. Officials are not yet sure when passenger rail service will arrive, though preparations are being made for a $50 million project to replace Middlebury’s Main Street and Merchants Row rail overpasses with a tunnel. That work is slated to begin next spring and take up to three years.
Selectman Nick Artim said several Middlebury College classes will help conceptualize, and determine the best site(s) for, a new transportation center.
•  Discussed the suggestion of placing some bocce courts somewhere on Middlebury public property. Resident Eric McFerren recently made that proposal to the Middlebury Parks & Recreation Committee. These courts tend to be a magnet for tourists and locals, and offer a recreational opportunity for people of all ages, McFerren told the committee.
“Everyone was enamored with the idea,” Selectwoman Donna Donahue, a member of the Parks & Recreation Committee, said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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