Letter to the editor: Addison delays town hall project
On Nov. 8, 2022, a majority of residents of the Town of Addison voted to approve a bond to finally renovate the Historic Town Hall. It was well warned, and the vote was during the national election to insure the greatest possible turnout. Prior to the vote several selectboard members made it clear they were opposed to the project.
Since that time the selectboard has shown themselves to be masters of delay. First it was an unwillingness to proceed with filing a variance application to allow an ADA accessible entrance so that all citizens could access the building — an entrance that is required by both federal and state law. In February three different versions of access were presented to the Board. They have never responded to these proposals.
More recently the board has changed their reason for delay. Now the board is unwilling to proceed until a new, recently appointed “Facilities Committee” can study the four corners area and determine the best use of the town “facilities.” This new tactic has essentially shelved the project for the immediate future. In the meantime, the old Town Hall continues to deteriorate. It is ironic that the board feels the need to now study the Four Corners area as part of the town hall project. Historically it can be asserted that this area has been earmarked for community use for a long time.
In 1967 the Vermont legislature authorized Town Municipal Planning Commissions to create 5-year Town Plan for their municipality. The idea was to define and implement community objectives by anticipating future needs. In 1972 the Addison Planning Commission worked diligently to create a Town Plan which identified ways to improve and meet the future needs of the Town. The first Town Plan in 1972 recognized the Historic Town Hall. “The Town Hall should be refurbished, running water installed and generally made into an attractive, functional community building.” This recommendation has long since been ignored.
On Aug. 12, 2014, the selectboard formally adopted the latest Town Plan covering the period of 2016-2021. That plan states “The Addison Town Plan constitutes a vision statement of how the town’s future development should proceed to promote the health, safety and welfare of Addison’s citizens. The plan serves as the foundation for subdivision, zoning, and other regulatory documents that implement the plan…” In discussing the Town Hall, the plan states “We will do the following:
1. Investigate ways to renovate the Town Hall so it can serve as a fully functioning facility
2. Include the Town Clerk’s office, incorporating new enlarged vault space, into the Town Hall”
The Planning Commission thought so much of the Town Hall its picture serves as the front cover of the plan.
In reading through all these town plans, what is striking is that almost every single recommended course of action in the plans was ignored. For example, since 2009 each plan recommended updating our zoning and subdivision regulations. Another example is that a professional website was to be established before the expiration of 2021. Each plan called for action to be taken long before 2023 was upon us.
So where has all of this delay left us in 2023? We have no Town Plan. It has expired. We have never updated our 2007 zoning regulations first called out as a goal in the 2009 Town Plan. We have not yet established a professional website. The Town Hall project, fully funded, is once again stalled so we can “study” the Four Corners area facilities.
Presently while we “study” the problem our town employees and municipal boards are expected to all function in a 600 square foot office of a converted house remodeled in 1972 into Town offices. It’s time to say enough is enough. We have studied this problem enough. We have a professional architectural plan for new offices, the funding to do it, and the consensus of a majority of the Addison residents.
If we continue on this path maybe Mark Twain was right when he said “never put off for tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.”
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