Op/Ed

Letter to the editor: Addison project must be defined

At the recent Addison selectboard meeting, it was agreed to engage a contractor to repair the slate roof of the historic Town Hall, this being a start to mitigate further deterioration. Whilst a welcome development, this in no way indicates any commitment regarding the ultimate use of the building.

My questions regarding the will of the people, as demonstrated in last November’s Town Hall bond vote, have been rebuffed at two successive board meetings with robust arguments regarding the legal restriction of the vote. We voted for “certain capital improvements” to the Town Hall, nothing more. What I have been unable to bring to discussion at these meetings is the very necessary question that arises from this legal interpretation, and so I raise it here.

Who gets to decide what is meant by “certain capital improvements?” In other words, who ultimately makes the decision regarding exactly what will happen to the Addison Town Hall?

After posing this question by email, I have received this from a selectboard member, “I honestly don’t know the answer,” a response I can respect since it seems at least to acknowledge the validity of the question.

Someone at some point will decide just how much work will be done on the Town Hall, how much and what type of accommodation will be included in the refurbishment. Whoever makes that decision is, in my view, beholden to the will of the people of the town. To spend the money we voted for, but to ignore the will of the people would be an intriguing exercise of democracy.

I, for one, voted for what I had viewed on the plans, the same plans that were circulated to all households with the bond proposal. I voted for the wording on the bond proposal: “… to restore the existing Town Hall Building for present day use as a town clerk’s office, committee workspace, and town community meeting space.” For such use, it is a legal requirement that the building be accessible, ADA-compliant. The necessary elevator and stairs were shown on the plans to be included in an addition. I voted for all of this. Apparently, what I voted for has no legal stature.

Some on the selectboard are suggesting that the elevator and stairs can be included within the historic footprint. Yes, they would fit, but then there would be insufficient space for the proposed functions. Furthermore, the historic character of the interior would be destroyed. I find this to be a non-starter.

And members of the selectboard are still objecting to the need for a variance to the zoning laws for the addition. To the best of my knowledge, the town body that has sole discretion over whether to issue such a variance is the Development Review Board. At this point the selectboard, by not advancing the application to the DRB, is acting as a gatekeeper to the DRB, and preventing the DRB from doing its job. I question whether it has the authority to do this.

If you voted for the Town Hall bond, I strongly suggest that you write to the selectboard to let them know exactly what you voted for. Let them know your wishes for the redevelopment of the Town Hall. Let us leave them in no doubt about our expectations. Since there appears to be no way to contact the board through the town website (and I hesitate to make personal email addresses public), I suggest submitting a letter at the town offices. 

Peter Macfarlane

Addison

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