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VTrans seeks move of Middlebury bus stop

MIDDLEBURY —The Vermont Agency of Transportation wants the Addison County Transit Resources bus stop on Merchants Row in Middlebury to be moved by Monday, June 12, as preparations are made for installation of two temporary bridges over the railroad in downtown. One of those bridges is right at the current ACTR stop.
The Middlebury selectboard received that information at Tuesday’s meeting as part of an update on plans to relocate the bus stop.
June 12 is when initial work will begin to demolish the deteriorating Merchants Row and Main Street bridges and replace them with temporary spans that will remain in place for the duration of a tunnel project that’s expected to last into 2020.
Local project liaison Jim Gish noted two potential spots for a relocated ACTR stop — one on western side of South Pleasant Street near the former Cole’s Flowers business, and the other on the westbound side of Seymour Street in place of some off-street parking across from Fire & Ice Restaurant.
Gish said in the long term, ACTR wants the bus stop to be placed at the north end of the northbound lane of South Pleasant Street. In this scenario, South Pleasant would become one-way, southbound. ACTR is expected to file related plans in about a month, according to Gish.
He added there are no plans right now have the ACTR stop return to Merchants Row.
James Moulton, executive director of ACTR, reiterated his preference for the South Pleasant Street spot. He noted a 2016 study in which that location garnered the most support from among several potential locations.
Some South Street residents have raised concern about a bus stop potentially raising noise, idling and child safety issues in the neighborhood.
But the Middlebury Department of Public Works has recommended the Seymour Street spot, according to Ramsay. That possible location has drawn some concerns due to its proximity to the town’s fire station and the potential for traffic disruption during an emergency call.
“Our view is that this process has been pretty thoroughly vetted,” Moulton said. “There were a lot of concerns raised about the Seymour Street location that haven’t gone away.”
Middlebury’s Infrastructure Committee is expected to weigh the Seymour Street and South Pleasant Street options this Thursday, May 11, and recommend a preferred ACTR bus stop location to the selectboard at its next meeting.
In other activity on Tuesday, the Middlebury selectboard discussed extending a sidewalk on Exchange Street (see story on Page 1A), and also:
•  Discussed Middlebury’s support of state legislation aimed at giving the town the option of creating a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district as a way of potentially financing a local parking garage.
TIF gives communities the ability to capture and use most of the increased local property tax revenues from new development in a specific geographic area to pay back investments on the infrastructure (such as water and sewer connections) to help make that new development possible. Current state law limits the use of TIF to a combined total of 11 specific districts in the municipalities of Burlington, Milton, Newport, Winooski, Colchester, Hartford, St. Albans and Barre.
Middlebury supported a bill this session that would allow for creation of an additional eight TIF districts (with Middlebury included).
As of Tuesday, the TIF legislation was being discussed by a House-Senate conference committee. That’s usually the final negotiating step to determine whether the bill gets passed or moves on for the governor’s signature.
The selectboard on Tuesday voted unanimously to draft a letter to House-Senate conferees reiterating their support for the TIF legislation.
•  Unanimously agreed to contribute a combined total of $55,000 from the town’s Conservation Fund to help the Vermont Land Trust permanently conserve two local farms: Quarry Road Farms, owned by Joel and Shirley Pominville, and the Butler Farm off Munger Street. The Independent will soon provide a more extensive report on that conservation deal, which continues to be fine-tuned by the VLT.
Middlebury’s Conservation Fund currently includes $398,611. It was once funded by the proceeds from a penny on the tax rate. It now receives around $54,000 annually through the Battell Trust. The non-profit Battell Trust derives rental income from hosting a telecommunications tower on Chipman Hill.
•  Unanimously agreed to grant a second-class liquor license to Shafer’s Market & Deli, which will soon replace Sama’s Café at 54 College St., opposite the new municipal park. Adam Shafer and his family are purchasing the business and hope to close on a deal on June 1.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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