Friday November 23, 2012

BRATTLEBORO -- Property owners within Brattleboro's downtown will be asked to weigh in on the future of the specially designated district.

Brattleboro has a Downtown Improvement District, and a special option tax on goods sold within the district helps fund the Building a Better Brattleboro organization.

Town Meeting Representatives approved the district in 2005 and the Town Charter and state statute both require that the property owners within the district vote on renewing the district designation every five years The town needs to re-apply to the state for the downtown designation, and with the application due to the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development in March 2013, property owners will vote on whether they want to continue the designation.

Ballots are being sent out from town hall, and completed ballots are due back by Jan. 8.

Building a Better Brattleboro receives funding from taxes collected within the district, but the organization is not directly tied to the district.

Even if property owners elect to eliminate the special designation BABB could continue to operate, though more than half of its budget comes from the local option tax collected from merchants in the DID.

Town Manager Barbara Sondag told the Selectboard members at their Tuesday night meeting that the district also allows the town to compete for special grants and for the property owners to receive tax credits for work they do on their buildings.

She also said the board might want to take a look at the current map that outlines the district and make changes.

Sondag and the board talked about including new properties on Park Place and Canal Street, and Sondag said it might make sense to call a special informational meeting to gather input from existing, and potential, members of the district.

BABB Executive Director Andrea Livermore said it made sense to ask property owners if they wanted to be included in the district.

In other business Tuesday, the board postponed a decision to accept a $240,781 Hazard Mitigation Grant from Vermont Emergency Management to purchase a property at 805 Western Avenue that was damaged during Tropical Storm Irene.

With only four members present at the meeting Tuesday the board elected to postpone the discussion until the complete board was at the table.

The Hazard Mitigation Grant program provides the funds to purchase land from a property owner and then takes that land off of the grand list, prohibiting it from any future development.

Selectboard member Chris Chapman said it was a big decision to remove land from the grand list and he wanted a full board to approve the grant.

At the meeting Tuesday, Sondag recognized the recent death of Steve Reynolds, a longtime employee of the Public Works Department.

Martin Webster was appointed to the Tree Advisory Committee. The board also opened the public comment period for the Town Plan, and will continue receiving input on the plan at its Dec. 13 meeting.

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at hwtisman@reformer.com or at 802-254-2311 ext. 279.