Monday June 17, 2013

GUILFORD -- Can a revived Guilford Country Store and the town’s busy recycling drop-off center continue to coexist on the same property?

That question arose this week as a representative of Friends of Algiers Village, a nonprofit that owns the soon-to-be-reopened store, said the recycling bins create a cramped and potentially dangerous situation in the store’s parking lot.

Friends of Algiers President Eric Morse raised the possibility that the town could buy an adjoining, undeveloped parcel, then move the bins to create more room for store traffic.

But two-thirds of the Selectboard expressed reservations about the necessity and potential benefits of the town acquiring any additional property.

"I think it’s something that needs to be tabled and talked about more," Selectboard Chairman Dick Clark said.

The town had rented space from the country store’s previous owners for two large recycling bins. Now that Friends of Algiers owns the store and parking lot, the rent remains the same: The town pays $1,200 annually to the nonprofit for recycling space.

The country store, at Route 5 and Guilford Center Road, has been shut since 2010. But after a big investment of time and resources from Friends of Algiers, the store is set to reopen under a new operator later this month.

While that’s good news for Guilford, it also will mean many more cars flowing into and out of a small parking lot near a hazardous intersection.


Advertisement

"The traffic-safety conditions in the vicinity are not good, the way it is now," Morse said.

Some believe that shifting the recycling bins onto a .75-acre parcel just north of the store parking lot would alleviate some of those concerns.

Less than a decade ago, Guilford officials expressed an interest in that same lot for the same purpose -- creating more room for recycling.

In fact, Morse this week reminded Selectboard members that Town Meeting voters in 2005 authorized the board to investigate and possibly purchase the property for $27,000.

That deal never happened, though. And, a few years ago, Friends of Algiers bought the undeveloped lot as part of the organization’s country store purchase.

Morse now believes the town would, in the long run, benefit by acquiring the .75-acre property from Friends of Algiers.

"None of the figures have changed significantly," Morse said. "It would cost less to finance -- borrowing the money to purchase the parcel -- than it would to continue to pay $1,200 a year rent."

He added that town ownership also would create more long-term stability. Morse told the Selectboard that the town’s recycling-rental agreement with Friends of Algiers is "at-will," and he said the rent may have to rise at some point.

Selectboard member Anne Rider expressed interest, noting that officials also have discussed pursuing funding for a park-and-ride lot at that same spot.

"For me, there’s a lot of win-win about it," Rider said.

Fellow board member Troy Revis had concerns, though. Citing property development and maintenance costs, he wasn’t buying Morse’s financial projections.

"It’s going to cost us more in the long run," Revis said.

Clark also was cool to the idea. And he added that voter approval would be needed for any such property purchase.

"I wouldn’t touch it without taking it to Town Meeting," Clark said.

Rider did not disagree with that sentiment. But she also didn’t want the idea to be nixed without further exploration.

"I would like it if we could have more discussion about this before we jump into a yea or nay," she said.

After lengthy debate, the Selectboard took no action in favor of or against the proposal.

Officials also briefly discussed moving the bins to some other place in Guilford -- possibly the town office or another publicly owned space.

But Morse said he still believes recycling and store operations can fit well together -- as long as safety is somehow improved.

"Friends of Algiers is in favor of having recycling (at the store). We feel like the whole project is a community project, trying to provide a place that has a positive influence on the town. And I think recycling is one of those," Morse said. "We’d like it to be safer, more convenient and more efficient."

Morse later added that he broached the land-sale topic only to start a conversation, noting that Friends of Algiers has not voted on the matter.

Mike Faher can be reached at mfaher@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.