Monday March 25, 2013

BELLOWS FALLS -- The consulting firm hired to devise plans for a revitalization of a section of the village known as The Island will present a preliminary draft at a public meeting scheduled for Wednesday.

John Mullin of Mullin Associates has given previous presentations in Bellows Falls and took public feedback into consideration for some conceptual changes, which he will detail at the Bellows Falls Waypoint Center on Depot Street starting at 6 p.m. Mullin will present the preliminary draft with Zenia Kotval, his business partner, and Carlos Nieto-Mattei, a landscape architect with The Berkshire Design Group Inc. (Northampton, Mass.), who is working with them on this project.

The three hosted an interactive public meeting, known as a charrette, on Thursday, Jan. 24, which gave citizens the chance to work together to discuss issues and potential solutions for the development. Several people said the local architecture and the history of the Bellows Falls Canal serve as huge strengths while the closure of the Vilas Bridge and inaccessibility of water are weaknesses. Enterprise and an increase in jobs were identified as opportunities but many cited the Vilas Bridge and nearby brownfields as possible threats to the project.

Mullin told the Reformer he has made some alterations to the three designs he crafted but wants everyone to know there is still time for input.

"There is ample time for people to make further recommendations if they want, and they’ll be acknowledged," he said, adding that there will be two or three more public meetings.

The meeting is being held by a combination of the planning-zoning office, the community development office and Mullin Associates, but Mullin will run the majority of it.

Rockingham Planning-Zoning Administrator Ellen Howard said she doesn’t think the plans have changed drastically since the previous public meeting but people might want to comment anyway. She said the final draft will need to be finished within the next month because the municipal planning grant period is coming to an end.

The preliminary draft document can be found in the left-hand sidebar on the home page of Rockingham’s website (www.rockbf.org).

Gary Fox, director of the Sustainable Valley Group (SVG), told the Reformer his group will be one that submits written comments.

SVG is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to generating financially and environmentally sustainable economies. One of several endeavors SVG has taken on is The Green Island Project, which aims to beautify and improve The Island by revitalizing its old buildings and attempting to bring in businesses to create jobs. According to SVG, the project is about training and jobs in the sustainable sectors of an evolving economy -- energy conservation, efficiency and curtailment, renewable energy and local food systems and permaculture.

Fox said SVG is a stakeholder on The Island and has a vested interest in its growth and revitalization plan. He said he serves as a Rockingham Historical Society representative to the Island Committee Advisory Board, which Howard established.

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.