Downtown designation welcomed in Wilmington

Saturday January 12, 2013

WILMINGTON -- The downtown designation is a step in the right direction, agreed residents on Wednesday at a special Selectboard meeting

"We've talked about downtown designation many times," said Town Manager Scott Murphy. "It's come to the point where we're going to send in the application."

Residents said that they supported the downtown designation plan, which was roughly outlined by Murphy, who already has had experience working in a downtown designation in Bennington.

Several people mentioned being excited that the project finally had been "given feet."

By having a downtown designation set up in Wilmington, small businesses, building owners, lessees and municipalities in that area would benefit from potential grants and opportunities from the state. It is a program set up by the Agency of Commerce and Community Development and is designed to help build strong communities.

Before the meeting, Selectboard Chairman asked Murphy where the funds should be taken out of for the inception of the downtown designation.

"What we want is to tap into the option tax fund," Murphy said at the special Selectboard meeting held on Jan. 9 to discuss concerns over the budget.

The budget calls for $8,000 to be secured for the downtown designation budget.

Using money from the 1 percent local option tax funds to contribute to its start-up was the idea presented to the board and the public.

The board was supportive of the downtown designation application as well. It would be one way to drive economic development, Murphy told the Reformer.

At the meeting, Murphy unveiled the new name for the downtown designation project, which will be called "Wilmington Works."

He has been working on setting up an application to begin the project. This program is meant to help towns with creating organizations that prioritize revitalization efforts.

As for the future, Murphy mentioned the possibility of having an office for the downtown designation of its own.

Members of the public in attendance were concerned over whether it should keep getting voted on every year. Some thought that the downtown designation won't have a long-term effect if it is argued about every year.

"It's always a bit of a debate every year," said Wilmington Town Attorney Bob Fisher, of other town's downtown designations.

Residents want a long-term commitment because they don't want it to fail due to lack of funding. Some cited projects that lost steam due to low or no funds and were worried about future funding for the downtown designation.

"It's simply a mechanism question," said Selectboard member Susan Haughwout. "We're committed to funding it."

Some other towns that have a downtown designation include Brattleboro, Bellows Falls and White River Junction.

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.


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